rants, raves and randomness
I spent last night making rounds of Nichome, the gay district 20 minutes away from my home. For the past few weeks, I found myself frequenting the gay district, meeting up with my friends who happen to be gay and making new ones. I also drag along my husband from time to time or introduce other straight people to this new-found haven of cheap beers and handsome waiters.
I love Nichome because I feel very safe. Tokyo is safe already-but some bar districts are just not single-women-walking-the-streets safe (ie Roppongi and the constant harassment of the club barkers). For one, I know guys will never hit on me or take advantage of me. I can have all the sweet fun I want and get drunk. Second : the beer. Where in the whole of Tokyo can you find cheap beer? Two hour drink-all-you-can for 10USD is a bargain. I am a beer drinker, I like them cheap. Third, being a Filipino, I feel at home among all the gay men. I have a lot of gay friends back home, and I miss their company. Not that new gay friends will ever substitute the old ones. But the wit, humor and ambience are more or less the same. So let me say this now – I am a fag hag. I love gays. I support the LGBT community – here or in the Philippines or where ever I may be. I don’t know if it’s because I am from the Philippines,where gays are a dime a dozen – they are my family, my classmates, my friends, my teachers, my work colleague. A new found friend commented as if my nationality is an explanation by itself:”Of course you love gays. You’re Filipina. I never met a Filipina who doesn’t like gays.” Oh why are Filipinas such fag hags?
Me liking gays hardly matters, of course, in the bigger view of things back home. With the power of the church and its influence on the personal, familial and societal life of its followers, gays are tolerated but not truly accepted. Sexually active gays are still believed to go to hell. They are marked as pedophiles and transmitters of STDs. Legally, they are not recognized. Gay marriages, domestic partnerships- neither exists in the Philippines now and not for a long time to come. The insurance plans back home don’t recognize gay partners as beneficiaries (Neither do they cover STDs – a fact I tried to contest in my HMO, but that is another story). To be fair, though, Thomson Reuters in the Philippines have shown support to the LGBT community by including same-sex partners in their benefits . But it’s one company among hundreds, if not thousands. What I can say from experience is that it is mostly the heterosexual men who pose resistance to the LGBT community. I’ve personally had a falling out with a homophobic male friend after a debate. I wasn’t one to sell my convictions in the name of friendship – and this has, of course, lead me to lose many “friends”. We did patch up, but neither side was willing acquiesce and I’ve learned to be less brutal about what I believe. After all, I am preaching about tolerance, so I should be tolerant of intolerance and the intolerant, yes? But I am not alone. Many Filipino women actively support the LGBT community and join the White day march in Ermita (remember those days?) but we hardly count. Laws and societal norms are still under the influence of a very patriarchal religion and conservative society. Unfortunately, some of their thinking can be harsh, misogynistic and outdated.
What I find really surprising is that non-religious countries like China and Japan are not tolerant of gay people either. Japan, for one, had a history of homosexuality, some evidence of which I found while reading the Book of Samurai called Hagakure.
“Hoshino Ryotetsu was the progenitor of homosexuality in our province, and although it can be said that his disciples were many, he instructed each one individually. Edayoshi Saburozaemon was a man who understood the foundation of homosexuality. Once, when accompanying his master to Edo, Ryotetsu asked Saburozaemon, ‘What have you understood of homosexuality?’
Saburozaemon replied, ‘It is something both pleasant and unpleasant.’
Ryotetsu was pleased and said, ‘You have taken great pains for some time to be able to say such a thing.’
Some years later there was a person who asked Saburozaemon the meaning of the above. He replied, ‘To lay down one’s life for another is the basic principle of homosexuality. If it is not so, it becomes a matter of shame. However, then you have nothing left to lay down for your master. It is therefore understood to be something both pleasant and unpleasant.’”
I was both amused and impressed by this excerpt from Hagakure. You see, the samurai’s problem with homosexuality is not with loving another man- but in doing so, one fails to lay down one’s life for the master. What in the world happened?! And China with over 1 billion people, probably has a lot of gay men too. Google search yields around 25 million of gay men, 80-90% of which enter a sham marriage with women (compared to America’s 10-15%, according to Google). The gay Korean-Chinese man with me last night, however, claimed that China is more open to gays than Japan. However, that doesn’t mean men can go living their life as they please. Pressure to marry and have a family are still very strong.
I understand that that it’s hard to shake off the dictates of your immediate surroundings. Your family may disown you and your friends may shun you. Not all are as sympathetic as the gay-loving Filipinas- man don’t you just wish we’re everywhere? Not even Japanese ladies can compare. Some girls I went to the university with whispered and giggled about a Filipino professor’s sexuality. What took me one second to know took them one whole year to realize, and now they make sure to spread the news. Yes. Fine, he’s gay. Japanese eat sushi. So what? Why is this information important and subject to your giggles? I was offended, disgusted and irritated.
Some few weeks ago, I went to the American Equal Rights Association in Waseda University to show my support to my LGBT friends. They acted out a play that centered on Proposition 8 (unfortunately, all in Japanese). From Wikipedia:
Proposition 8, known informally as Prop 8, was a California ballot proposition and a state constitutional amendment passed in the November 2008 California state elections. The proposition was created by opponents of same-sex marriage in advance of the California Supreme Court’s May 2008 appeal ruling, In re Marriage Cases, which followed the short-lived 2004 same-sex weddings controversy and found the previous ban on same-sex marriage (Proposition 22, 2000) unconstitutional. Proposition 8 was also ultimately ruled unconstitutional by a federal court (on different grounds) in 2010, although only confirmed on June 26, 2013 following the conclusion of proponents’ appeals.
I was really surprised at this so-called Prop 8. We’re in 2013 guys and gals. Your mentality is kinda outdated! I don’t understand the argument that claims gay marriage will ruin traditional marriage. Why? How? I watched a couple of the ads (thankfully in English) and couldn’t find one logical argument. Even if I distanced myself from gays – say I have neutral feelings about homosexuality- the argument still doesn’t make sense. The argument is similar to men complaining that voting is ruined now for them because women can vote. And what’s shameless is that they use children to promote their hate campaign.
Luckily for my good friend, he’s British and can legally marry his partner in the British embassy. The bad news is that it won’t be legally recognized in Japan- his partner being Japanese. Meaning, no spouse visa for him, which I find really unfair. Some people are fighting this of course, finding loopholes in the constitution. Japanese constitution doesn’t say a couple has to be a male and a female (as far as my rudimentary understanding of the play went) , and therefore same-sex marriage can be deemed constitutional. Some people argue that, of course, it doesn’t say so, because it doesn’t have to. I was getting a headache with too much technical Japanese, so we headed to our hangout, Nichome, to pass the night. I do hope though, that people will eventually come to their senses. It’s 2013 folks!