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Japan: Experiences at IDAHO

idahoOn the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), Japanese LGBT communities organized several events and street activities in several cities across the country. With a slogan of “Yes to sexual diversity” (多様な性にYES!), various groups broadcast messages promoting a society where differences and diversity are accepted and respected.

Blogger 2in20 nagoya reports success [ja] at the IDAHO street event in Nagoya. Blogger Endo Mameta, one of the active organizers of idaho-net, as well as of the IDAHO events in Yokohama and Tokyo, describes what happened in Yokohama:

横浜は革命的(?)だった。開始直前から、おっちゃん連中に絡まれた。
昼間からワンカップ片手、というようなおっちゃんたち。
「なんだ、これ。同性愛って、なんだよ?それ?」
げげげげー怖いかもとか思いながら説明すると

Yokohama was revolutionary(?). Before we even started, we were hassled by a bunch of old men.
They had a One-Cup in their hand in the middle of the day, [they were] that kind of bunch.
“What's this? Homosexuals, What the hell is this?”
I started explaining, thinking “ugh, they are kinda scary”, and then they said:

「おまえ、そんなの、当たり前だろう!?同性愛だのなんだのって、愛があれば、おまえ、それでいいに決まっているだろう!?」とかって半分怒り出す。ものすごく肯定的、なんである。

“Hey, hell yeah! Homosexuals or whatever you are, love is all you need right!?” and started getting angry. They were extremely positive.

「だから、それをいおうとしているんです」とかいうと、おっちゃん、ものすごく応援してくれる。

So I said “That's what we are trying to say”, and the old guy was very supportive.

[…]

そして、おっちゃんが、とうとうマイクを握る(!)

「通行中のみなさん!同性愛ってきいて、どう思いますか!?同性だの、異性だのって、愛というのは安らぎがあれば、それで大事なことだとは思いませんか??」

And eventually, the guy grabs the mic!

“All you passers-by, how do you feel when you hear about homosexuality? Whether homosexuals or heterosexuals, the important thing about love is that you have the comfort, don't you think??”

idaho shinjuku
IDAHO street event at Shinjuku Station, Tokyo

Blogger DASS, who was also at the Yokohama event, writes:

宣言があった1990年って、意外と最近だったんでビックリしてます。
これがなかったら、ゲイの環境って今よりも厳しくて自分の生き方はどうなってたんだろう、海外で認められている同性婚やパートナーシップなんてなかったかも、そんなことを思いながら見てました。

I am surprised that it was only 1990 that the declaration was made — it is surprisingly recent.
While I was watching, it occurred to me that without [the declaration], the circumstances for gays today would have been more difficult, and I thought about what my way of life would have been like, and that perhaps same-sex marriage and partnership that are now recognized overseas might never have been possible.

[…]

行ってみて思うのはすぐには何か変るわけではないけど、こういったことが出来るようになったってことは、1990年には想像もつかなかったことなのかなと思います。こういった活動が許されるのも昨今の近隣の国の状況を見ると、恵まれてるのかもしれません。僕はヘタレだから表だった活動は苦手です。でも、頑張っている人は応援したいなと思って行ってきました。自分の街でもこういったことが行われるようになったのはやはりうれしいです。

Now that I have been to this event, what I realize is that things don't change all of a sudden, but [at the same time I realize that] back in 1990 it was unthinkable that we would be able to do something like this. When you look at the current situations in neighbouring countries, I think we are fortunate. I am a chicken so I have difficulties with activities that stand out. But I went there wanting to support people who are making these kind of efforts. Indeed, I am happy that things like this can happen in my city now.

From Kobe, akaboshi reports the IDAHO street activity and posts a series of pictures and videos (here and here) which capture the severe reality of Japanese society and the experience of some of the participants.


Video by akaboshi titled “The severe reality”

Blogger Novkun (Akasugi Yasunobu) writes about the Gay Pride Parade in Kobe, which was held the day after IDAHO:

神戸のパレードは、札幌・東京・大阪のようなLGBT当事者による団体がすべてを主催するという形ではなく、「神戸まつり」という全市的なお祭りのパレードの一グループとして参加する形をとっています。パレードも各地によって色々な形態が出てきて、参加者としても選択の余地が出てきたのは、よいことだなぁと思います。どこが優れているというのではなく、あくまで並列な形でね。

The parade in Kobe is not like the ones in Sapporo, Tokyo and Osaka, where everything is organized by the LGBT communities themselves; in Kobe, we participate as one of the groups marching in a parade as part of a city-wide festival called “Kobe Matsuri”. As there have been various styles of parade in different places, I think it's a great thing that participants have a choice. It's not about which one is better, but more about having a parallel structure.

Finally, Maruyama Tenoru, a prolific blogger on the topic of LGBT issues, reflects on the events and discusses the situation of LGBT community in Japan:

<差別>あるいは<偏見>といった言葉で、つい簡単にくくりたくなってしまうが、実際のところ、日本では、そうした言葉がふさわしいのかどうか、微妙な感じもする。
 たとえばイランでは、累計”数千人”という”規模”で同性愛者が”処刑”されてきたと伝えられているなど、徹底した差別がある。差別などという”生やさしい”表現では済まないだろう。”虐殺”と言い換えても良さそうだ。まさに、同性愛者を根絶やしにしようとしている。

Words like “discrimination” and “prejudice”, while I don't want to bundle things together so easily [with these words], but in actual fact, in Japan, I have a strange feeling that these kinds of words are actually applicable.
It has been reported for example that in Iran, homosexuals are executed in the thousands, and there is relentless discrimination. Probably a mild expression like “discrimination” is not enough. “Massacre” is more like it. They are trying to literally eradicate homosexuals.

 比べてしまえば、日本の同性愛者/LGBT(レズビアン・ゲイ・バイセクシュアル・トランスジェンダー)に対する差別・偏見は、炙り出されて殺されることなどない分、まだ”まし”なほうだと呑み込んで、事を荒立てずに静かにしておれば良いではないか———と考える当事者が少なくない。目立った活動には及び腰になって、傍観者に徹しようとする。
 同時に、同性愛者/LGBTではない多数の人たちは、当事者の気持ちが読めていないこともあり、いったい誰がどんな差別をしているのか———と訝しげな表情を浮かべたりもする。そもそも、日常の場面で同性愛者に出くわすことなど滅多にない非同性愛者/非LGBTの人たちの感覚からすれば、身に覚えのない言い掛かりを付けられているような気分になるような人たちも、中にはお出でになるかも知れない。

There are more than a few people who think that, in comparison [to the situation is Iran], discrimination and prejudice against Japanese homosexuals/LGBT are much less serious, since Japanese don't get smoked out and killed, [and so they think that] it's better to be quiet and not aggravate things. They shy away from activities that stand out and stay on the sidelines.
Meanwhile, the majority of people who are not homosexual/LGBT, because they don't understand the feelings of [homosexual/LGBT people], give you a dubious look, and feel like they are being accused of something, but they don't know what. There may be some among them who have hardly ever even encountered homosexuals / LGBT.

[…]

 日本では、いわゆる<ゲイリブ>が、当の同性愛者/LGBTからも敬遠されてきた風潮は、いまでも健在かと想う。もちろん、とても残念なことではあるが。

In Japan, I think there is still a prominent climate in which so-called “gay lib” has been shunned by the very parties concerned, the homosexuals/LGBT. Needless to say, this is very unfortunate.

[…]

 敬遠派には、ゲイリブ派の行動が、取って付けたようにわざとらしく映るに違いない。火のないところに、わざわざ火を点けて、火事だ火事だと大騒ぎをしているかのように。
 しかし、本当のところはそうでなく、ゲイリブ派は、日本でも声を上げ、きちんとやっておかなくてはならないことを、真剣にやろうとしているだけだ。
 つまり、たとえ同性愛者/LGBTの誰かが、黙っておとなしく隠れていることなく、素のまま、ありのままの自分として生きようと決断しても、同じ人間として、非同性愛者/非LGBT(=異性愛者/ヘテロセクシュアル)たちの只中にあってさえ、臆することなく平気の平左で生きられるように、また、こと左様に生きやすい世の中にしたいと念じながら。
 求めるところは単純で、要するに意想の転換である。

To those who shun gay lib, actions taken by gay lib groups must look far-fetched and theatrical. It looks as though they are lighting a fire where there is no fire, then making a lot of noise saying that there is a fire.
In reality, however, that is not the case, and the gay lib group is only trying to speak out and do things that must be done, in a serious way.
In other words, they are hoping to realize a world in which a homosexual/LGBT person who decides not to be quiet, not to remain hidden, but to live as he/she really is, surrounded by non-homosexual/non-LGBT (ie. heterosexual) people — a world in which this person can live without feeling daunted or bothered, a world where it is comfortable [for this person] to live equally as a human being.
What is sought here is simple, and that is changing the way of thinking.

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