May 7, 2017.
On an overcast, average day in Tokyo, I make my way to Yoyogi Park swerving through the overflowing streets of Harajuku. The fact that I need to twist my body hastily to avoid human collisions doesn't bother me today. Neither do the clouds. The gray day and the gray roads are colored by the rainbow flags waving vigorously in the air, their vibrancy reflecting the contagious energy of the parade. I can't help but wave my, unfortunately, empty hand back at the beaming marchers.
An all black clad girl with blue lipstick tenderly takes the hand of a girl in ripped neon fishnet stockings, who I assume is her girlfriend. The neon fishnet girl reciprocates her affection by pecking her on the cheek. I see the way they look at each other. I see love. Her lipstick and her stockings match.
Show stopping drag queens with immaculate makeup in glittering tutus and delicately constructed bodice strut confidently. I think their beauty is unquestionable. I think the confidence they exude is the most breathtaking aspect (Besides their impeccable makeup. Their winged eyelashes could blow me away in one wink).
The theme of this year's Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade was "change." A change that "seeks to create a space affirming all individuals" who are "free to be happy as themselves." Change towards a society where your assigned sex doesn't determine who you choose to love, how you dress, the way you act, who you are.
I fight as a feminist because I believe in gender equality. I believe that no person should have to face discrimination, hatred, harassment, or discomfort because they don't fulfill the standards of femininity or masculinity. I advocate LGBT rights for the same reason. I believe that no person should have to feel ashamed for simply being who they are and loving who they love. I fight because I believe homophobia and gender discrimination both come from the same sorts of gender roles and traditional stereotypes that oppress us.
Japan is currently in a complicated situation when it comes to LGBT rights. Although we see cross-dressers and transgender TV personalities such as Matsuko Deluxe or Miwa Akihiro and Haruna Ai or Sato Kayo, what happens when they want to go to a women's bathroom or want to ride the women's only train car? What about cross-dressing females and transgender men (FtM~female to male)? Why don't they get media representation?
Yes, Matsuko Deluxe is hilarious, witty, and sensational on commentary, but what if Matsuko was your average colleague at work? Would you be able to accept her cross-dressing if she wasn't so damn funny and a TV phenomenon? The majority of LGBT representation in media have some things in common. Their character is often laughed at, their attraction to young boys is made a spectacle, the daily struggles of their gender expression or identity is rarely taken seriously, and whether they are transgender or cross-dressers, they are mostly MtF (male to female). They must fit the archetype of an over-the-top, viciously honest, overtly sexual and exceptionally comedic character or they are not deemed acceptable for TV. Those who do make it on TV are dehumanized and conveniently made into a character for comedic consumption.
Going back to the general acceptance for the LGBT community outside of the camera lens...
To the young individuals who are bullied for just being who they are, couples in love who want to marry the person they've been with for years, the office workers who hide their sexuality for the fear of being ostracized by their colleagues, little boys and girls who just don't understand why they have to wear the required skirt or pant school uniform when they desperately want to wear the other. In Japan, 70% of LGBT pupils are bullied, and 30% have contemplated suicide. Anti-discrimination laws in Japan are pending, recognition of same-sex marriage seems like a far off goal. Only 4% of office workers have come out to their colleagues. We are not informed enough about these topics, nor do we talk about it enough.
Let's talk about the simple things we can do and/or stop doing on an individual level to show our support for the LGBT community.
"You don't look gay... You wear guy clothes, you're not feminine, you don't sound gay." Know the difference between sex, gender, sexuality, and gender identity. In Japan, these very different things are often confused with one another. A start to acceptance is to not assume that sexes, genders, and sexualities always coincide.
- Sex is determined by biology; it refers to physiological differences such as genitals, breasts, and facial hair.
- Gender is a culturally or socially constructed concept (i.e. clothing, stereotypes, behavior).
- Gender identity is the extent in which one identifies with their biological sex.
Your sexuality doesn't determine how you dress, or how you behave. There are plenty of "masculine" gay men who could beat the crap out of straight men, and "feminine" lesbian women who flaunt long hair, red lipstick, and high heels. There is no such thing as "looking gay" or "looking straight."
Ask people if they are in a relationship, rather than asking if they have a girlfriend or a boyfriend. I have been guilty of this until recently. I asked a relatively close male classmate of mine if she had a girlfriend. He said yes, he has had a girlfriend for years. So being the nosy human I am, I kept on bugging him about her, thinking that we were close enough for him to divulge more information to me. Turns out his girlfriend was a boyfriend, and he hated when people asked him specifically if he had a girlfriend. Tat would be like a gay person constantly asking men if they had boyfriends, assuming that that was their sexuality based on their own sexuality.
Be open, be understanding, and stop assuming! Imagine how difficult it must be to not be able to tell your friends, coworkers, even family members about the person you love or how you truly feel. Be there to talk, be there to listen, and be vocal about your support for the LGBT community.
The stocking and lipstick matching girls at the parade looked more in love than I'd ever been myself. The drag queens who flaunt their stuff make me believe that being yourself is the sexiest and most beautiful thing people could do. The Rainbow Pride parade is a limited space and time that they can be themselves and exude their confidence and express their love.
Love is love.
Let's revolutionize the way we categorize and often ostracize certain types of love. Let's create a society where all types of sexualities, gender identities, and people who don't fit the society's norms are loved and accepted. Let's start the ReLOVEution!