about Japan, trans talk

This is reality:

The other day

S goes through multiple stages of the interview process and people want to hire her.
Potential employers talk salaries, start dates and contracts.
Great!
Last thing is proof of ID.

Fuck.

One detail.
Sex: M

Will they call back?
Most don’t.

Names can be legally changed, no problem.
Sex…at minimum a doctor’s note is required.
In Japan, three conditions have to be met: SRS (sexual reassignment surgery), be unmarried and have never had children.

This little detail is the difference between protection and endangerment.

A man is pulled over for speeding and hands over his ID.
The cop doesn’t miss that sex reads F.
Wow, how quickly attitudes change and the harshest penalty is enforced.
And when hateful young, drunken men approach the car, law enforcement turns a blind eye as violence erupts.

A woman is pulled over for a busted headlight.
Her license reads Sex: M.
The cop raises his eyebrows more than a little but says nothing and slowly nods.
Her out-of-state license is expired.
She is padded down and put in the backseat of the cop car while he background checks.
It turns out that she has a valid in-state license in the system.
She is let go with a ticket for the headlight and told to be careful.
(Meanwhile her friend in the passenger seat has been sweating massive bullets through the brick of weed that’s been the albatross around his neck during this exchange.  His first weed deal, by the way…oh memorable virgin shenanigans.)
Phew.

Sometimes the world is the most dangerous place in the face of law enforcement.
Sometimes those who get pulled over get really lucky.

But.
Human protection ought not be regulated by luck.

The world is not a safe place.
If one’s livelihood is greatly dictated by natally matching sex and gender— and it is— then Japan is not an idyllic safe haven as reputed.

The transgendered among us have no protection.
And it’s damn hard to witness.

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about Japan, trans talk

Are you…

The other day

a regular woman?

Or at least that’s what the question literally translates to when I’m at a trans party.

Yes.
Yes, I was born with a vagina.

Which is met with with sighs.
These boys are not so interested in cisgender ladies.
But they are NOT GAY, they tell me.

Okay.
Got it.
You’re not gay.
You just like women who have breasts and a penis.

So how about rather than the binary gay, straight or bi (which still revolves around gay and straight as the defining center), sexual attraction be described as male, female or trans-oriented?

It’s interesting that so many guys give such a rat’s ass about being labeled gay.
At first I think the implication is that it’s less of a social stigma to be into transsexuals than to be gay.
But after a hard think and a talk with S, I conclude that maybe those guys don’t want to be labeled gay because they’re attracted to women.
Which would make them not gay.
They’re straight.
Or female-oriented.

The guys also want to know WHY I’m at a trans party.
If I’m not here to pick someone up, get hit on or freely be the woman I was meant to be without the genetic advantage, what gives?
They don’t get it.

The women are less confused and more, “Let’s talk heels and get drunk.”
And I’m like, “Yes, drinks and how are your lashes so amazing?”
So we chat about cars, nature, various trans scenes in Japan while commenting on bearded ladies in scandalous bikinis and Pippy Longstocking wigs.

Simply put, it’s a fun time, visually awesome and I always love to see my homefolk without their well-worn masks of social conformity.
The vast majority here freak out and/or don’t accept non-traditional lifestyles that aren’t meticulously closeted.  Just the other day, this young kid proudly displaying his many tats (which still carry a social stigma) probes me about my personal life.  I answer matter-of-factly and when I reveal that my ex still lives with me, “What the fuck?!” is his response.

Dude, you asked me.
I’m tempted to mindfuck him a bit more with the I married my trans ex-girlfriend bit but decide to keep mum.

There are pearls and swine and at this point in my life I don’t cast those strings so carelessly.

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about Japan, random love, relationshipping

It’s time

My eyeballs need cocaineto visit my grandparents’ grave.  I want to scrub-brush the tombstone, take some pretty flowers, burn some incense, put my hands together and pray.

Their grave is on a mountainside and the view is stunning; however, the sheer size of this cemetery is intimidating.  I’ll need a map and it’ll take me twenty times as long to find their grave as it will to sit, pray, think, love.

Some of my earliest memories are at my grandparents’ home in rural Japan.

A single-digit me hangs out in the piney front yard with huge moss-covered boulder-stones, awesome bonsai, random fruit trees, flowers sprouting jolts of color and a little stream running sweet, cold water.

My morning routine: cut through the superskinny passageway connecting our house to my grandmother’s sister’s home and walk around the foresty hill behind the house.  I collect various beetles as I get mercilessly bitten by mosquitoes but no matter because I’m off and running to the local candy shop and grocery where the shopkeepers think me a lovable but strange novelty, being reared in the States.  I say neighborhood hellos and discover chocolate-covered strawberry bon-bons(!!!) from a vending machine next to the neighborhood shrine; cicadas rhythmically scream-buzz in the humid afternoons, rows and rows of them encircle the tall shrine tree trunks.  Finding those bon-bons was a fucking awesome day.

My aunt wakes around noon and I watch her hour-long makeup routine in awe; her lipstick palette alone fascinates me for many minutes.  She was a model in Tokyo when she was young; many decades later, she’s no doubt the hippest woman in this quiet town.  She loves to tango and has many male admirers; my uncle’s joy over this is easily measured in the cans of beer that stack up, the brick thrown in her face was a little more direct.  Sometimes it takes her too many hours to finish her makeup so an impatient me plays in a field, looks for four-leaf clovers and makes necklaces out of weedy flowers.  Sometimes I ride the bus to explore neighboring towns but mostly I walk around, suck nectar from honeysuckles, balance on raised concrete borders of rice paddies and stare at tadpoles and frogs.

As the sky starts to turn pink-orange, I buy beer and cigarettes from adjacent vending machines for my uncle and cousin, respectively.  They drink and smoke while I light fireworks at night, sometimes with my next-door second cousins, sometimes not.

The family was tight.

So tight that when my older cousin gets too involved with the Yakuza, he lives with us in the states until- years later- he can resume life in Japan.

So tight that when his younger brother gets into rougher and rougher shenanigans at school, it’s his turn to live with us.

So fucking tight that this cousin uses an eight-year-old me for firsthand sex ed.

He doesn’t have to ask me to keep our secret.

I look up to him; I block it out of my mind.
It didn’t happen.

Nothing.

Happened.

As long as he lives with us, I don’t say anything.

Even when he ‘asks’ me to watch porn with him.
And taunts me (some days I’m really dumb and not cute, other days I’m a brilliant beauty; this confuses me).
And breaks my collarbone.

I don’t hate him.
I don’t know that I will ever hate him.

Even as he continues to mess with a ten, eleven, twelve-year-old me.
Even after a fifteen-year-old me feels immense relief that he has a girlfriend.
Only to find a box of Polaroids that he’s taken of me while I was asleep.

At seventeen I can’t deny what happened anymore; memory flashes disrupt my suburban teenage-hood.
At nineteen I tell my parents.

I still don’t hate him.
Even after my dad confronts him and he calls me a crazy bitch.
And a liar.

My grandparents are dead; it’s no longer their home.
And I’m no longer welcome there.

The greatest irony?
As I’m on this island, many years later and planning to visit my grandparents grave, I miss that family.
I didn’t quite realize the ultimatum: saving myself means goodbye to them forever.

Usually thinking about them doesn’t bum me out but apparently on a night like this, as I reflect, it makes me tremendously sad.

We don’t get many givens in this life.
Family is one of them.

Sometimes.

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about Japan

Suicide

Truth or tactwins Japan’s popularity contest.

But.

For the first time in 15 years it’s fallen below 30,000 people.

Yay.

My brain can’t really relate to those figures so I need an explanation in this vein:
Prior to 2012, 30,000+ people committed suicide a year= 1 suicide every 15 minutes.
2012 proud stats, 27,766 suicides committed= 1 suicide every 20 minutes.

I get that statistics and accuracy aren’t really a sure thing but when the aforementioned figures are also supported here and there, my skeptical ass knows those numbers aren’t so far off.

So combine an historically proud suicide method with the present-day ubiquity of said death and two things happen: a strange romanticism surrounding suicide emerges and desensitization strikes.

Regarding a certain romanticism, there’s a forest- Aokigahara Forest (Sea of Trees) that became an extraordinarily popular suicide spot after the novel Kuroi Jukai (the black sea of trees) by Seicho Matsumoto was published.  It’s a beautiful site that when combined with a lyrical work, somehow soft focuses a cruel, selfish and tortuous exit.

I can’t count the number of trains that have been delayed on account of suicide in the one year I’ve lived here.  In fact, if I’m late to work, suicide on the tracks is often assumed and as I write that, I realize I have been thoroughly desensitized.

Sadness.

Suicide isn’t a taboo subject but avoiding that road to perdition- psychotherapy- sure as fuck is.
Yep, I’ll be talking about that before too long.

Topical fact:
Dazai Osamu, writer who really wanted out of this life
1st attempt: solo, with pills.
2nd attempt: with a 19-year-old bar hostess, drowning (beach of Kamakura).  She died.
3rd attempt: solo, hanging.
4th attempt: with his wife, pills.  Both survived.
5th attempt: with his new wife, drowning in the Tamagawa canal.  Both died.

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about Japan

Abortion

The other dayas birth control pisses me off.

Because abortion and contraceptives are NOT the same thing and yet, in Japan, not only are abortions viewed as viable birth control, the pill is stigmatized because apparently that is equated with promiscuity=shameful.

This is why I’m pissed at Japan in the realm of contraception.

So as someone who doesn’t want to undergo abortions, what are my options?

I have two.

I mean, literally- there are two pills from which I can choose.

And it’s not like I have a choice of two between progestin only, AKA minipill, versus the estrogen and progetsin combination pill.  Nope.  I have a choice between a monophasic (one steady level of hormones for 21 days) or a triphasic (gradually increasing levels of hormones to mimic the body’s natural hormone production) combination pill.

Not that I’m interested but if I had wanted an IUD I would have to make an appointment with a specialist and hope that they have more than one option.

Argh(!!!) Japan, y’all.

Abortion is less shameful than taking a pill.  Oh my fucking god, people.  Getting a physically and emotionally traumatic procedure is way more socially acceptable than wanting to circumvent unwanted pregnancy?!

I can barely wrap my brain around this way of thinking…and this would be among the reasons why I don’t see myself living here in the long-term.

It’s not an immediate deal breaker but…it’s a thing.

Oh, and of course nationally mandated insurance does not cover the pill.  Or STD screenings.  Or routine Pap smears.  But that’s another rant for another day.

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about Japan

Love hotels & eyepatches

The other day

are old news and a new trend.
Like, love and kink, Tokyo-style.

Oh, love hotels.
It’s exactly as it sounds: a place for the sex. You can choose 1-3 hours or the night.
You might have heard Japan is renowned for its sky-high service standards and rent-a-doing-it-rooms are no exception. Jacuzzi tubs, toiletries, porn, robes, irons, condoms, karaoke (duh, it’s Japan), drinks and snacks are all de rigeur. Then there are the themes…cages, aquariums, Hello Kitty in a bondage swing, fucking carou- actually, this is so much better.

Right?

Japan is so damn good at a theme. In that realm, the bars are also awesome. Alice in Wonderland seems particularly popular and of course, the anime. Or say tonight, I want glowing eyeball cocktails while getting the crap scared out of me in a haunted spaceship while avoiding ninja stars being thrown by Technicolor horsemen. Minus the spaceship, this can happen.

But I digress.

A note on anonymity and love hotels: most enable an affair remarkably well. Zero contact with another human is absolutely possible- use the underground parking garage, touchscreen your room of choice, insert cash or a card and voilà. It’s that easy. Then there’s the other end of the spectrum: after checking-in at the front desk, if there’s a wait for a room, just chill out with other people waiting to do it by playing pool, getting a chair massage or throwing some darts around.

The love hotel experience is such customizable fun in this city.

And then there are the young kids…asking to get their eyeballs licked, followed by conjunctivitis. Young girls are especially keen on wearing eyepatches with pride- that’s right, bitches- I got herpes of the eye because I got so many people to tongue my eyeball. Y’jealous?

My homeland is so fucking weird, y’all.

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about Japan

Happy Japanniversary

My eyeballs need cocaine

Wow, it’s been a year already.
Craziness.

I often get asked how long I’m going to be here and my answer is always: I don’t know.

At the onset, I told myself that I would be in Tokyo at least two years for two reasons:
1) Lease agreements are usually for two years (though you can break them)
2) Year 1 would be simply surviving and experiencing everything anew and year 2 would  enable me to form a more true and objective opinion about living here- do I really like it or not.

Survival year 1 wasn’t too shabby; definitely a whirlwind and I’m really glad I had trips to Thailand and the States to break up moments of culture shock.

Some highlights:

apartment hunting and procurement in <36 hours, wading in Tokyo indie film production waters, love relationships morphing, friend relationships proving distance can bring us closer (because they ROCK), torrential downpours, best noodles ever. ever. ever., cuteness, street drinking, garbage water (more on this later), fucking Engrish, countless hours on planes (aisle seat only from here on out), A/C love, summer flu hate, cedar incense, public transport dependency, pedestrian hate, blinding island sun, meat smoke, ridiculously overpriced taxis, beer (so much beer consumed), strangers making me smile, sweat, snow, fear, joy, change, panic, loss, and love.
Always love.

Thanks for reading, y’all.
Cheers to year 2!

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