about Japan, trans talk

Cut

cut

to S.
(surprise surprise.)

But seriously, the girl needs legal advice of a super specific nature.
Let’s see if I can get her need-list straight.

First, for those who aren’t aware, quick recap: we got married after we broke up because by doing so, my Japanese citizenship grants her a spousal visa which then enables her to live in Japan.  It’s hard to find an employer who will sponsor a visa and when you’re a transsexual the pickins are really fucking slim.

So this is where S’s recent questions come in.

She wants to change her passport to read sex: F because the M and tremendously male passport photo really hampers shit when looking for work.  Also, she gets questioned by authorities when she tries to clear immigration in Japan.

She can change her passport stat; she has a doctor who will vouch for her and that’s all that is required.

But.

Gay marriage is not recognised in Japan.  When it’s time to renew her visa, she must present her passport and if it reads sex: F, what happens to our marriage?  And her visa status as a result?

International living and sorting thorough visas are tricky.
A transsexual in a lesbian marriage isn’t something most countries accommodate.
Tricky gets trickier.

Things are never simple with S and I but I’m feeling doubtful of finding a lawyer in Tokyo who can answer her questions.
Of course we’ll try our damnedest.
And it’ll sure as hell be curious, frustrating and hilarious trying to pull those damn answers.

 

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trans talk

Standards of the Double Sort

In an effort to mix things up and maintain the original focus of this blog, Rumi and I have decided that I should be a guest-writer for every 50th blog post. Kudos to Rumi on her dedication to maintaining this blog on the regular as well as clear improvement in her writing as a result of it. Happy 100th post, Rume!*


The title of this post stems from the blooming of my awareness of all of the double standards that exist between men and women, and how much more perceivable they are on one side of the path than the other, as well as how I feel about those differences. On the one hand, everyone should be treated equal, right? Well sure…but is being treated the same the same as being treated equally? I’ve come to realize that while some of the double standards that I had an active disapproval of when living as a male, are actually some of the very things that tickle me pink and bemuse me on a regular basis.

Since transitioning, I’ve put a fair amount of thought into both the blatant and more subtle ways in which I’m treated differently by the people around me. While some of the changes are welcome, some others I’ve encountered have elicited reactions within me which range from mild surprise to outright disbelief. One thing that certainly bears mentioning is the dichotomy of treatment I received while actively and openly transitioning at the school I attended here in Tokyo as well; a sort of elective recognition of sorts, both frustrating and validating at times.

As for some of the more subtle differences, I would have to say that most have been pleasant, if not necessarily positive. People from all walks of life began to smile at me as I walked by. I started to get heckled by certain types of men. Compliments about my outfits and style from women were received. I also found that getting ready (for work/to go out/to go on a date) was no longer a chore but an adventure, and while that is more of a personal revelation, it’s worth it’s weight in typeface.

After having reached the somewhat rocky plateau of being ‘mostly’ recognized as a woman in public, it seemed that I had never before realized the divergent nature of people. Women became simultaneously more open and accessible to approach and speak to, as well as seemingly less interested in me, while being far, far more critical of my appearance. It was a strange sensation to have women smile at my approach and face me as opposed to being ‘on guard’ for harassment, undesired flirting, or fear of some form of physical ill-treatment, while watching their body language shift to the defensive and exclusionary. Men, on the other hand, became much, much more polite. When they weren’t being obscenely direct and inappropriate, that is.

Perhaps the most acute feeling I’ve experienced in regards to this has been the loss of my male privilege coupled with the major backslide into perceived hedonism and outcast status, to some. Fortunately, most, if not all of that has run its course at this point, although I have no way of knowing if that would remain the case were I to return to the West. During transition, or at least the more obvious physical portions of it, I was the subject of many a stare, gawk, and double-take. Then there were  the looks I received when I handed my ID over for various reasons, and the inevitable questions that followed. Let’s not forget the flak I received at the airport and the looks of disapproval and outright disgust from elderly people, either.

The individuals who operated my school in Tokyo, to their credit, made several successions on my behalf that they had no precedent for at the time. They allowed me to not only use my chosen name on all of my school work, but even went so far as to have a small meeting with all of the teachers to ensure that they used the proper pronouns and called me by that name only in class (this was kind of big deal as many other people requested to be called by various nicknames, but were denied, even to the point of a shortened version of their actual names). After I stopped wearing men’s clothing completely, I was allowed to use the women’s restrooms. Occasionally, some teachers attached ‘-chan’ (a suffix used for women, girls, very young boys, pets, and all things cute) to my name. Conversely, there were moments which truly made me feel left out and less-than. When I signed up for a soccer ball kicking competition, after being pressed because there weren’t enough people signing up, my name was placed on the men’s list (after leaving school in the middle of the day crying, I was later allowed to kick with the girls and was given a formal apology by the staff member who placed me there). I was told that I should join the tea ceremony class, but when I asked if they actually had a kimono(the female garments) to fit me, there were pressed lips, shared glances, and was told perhaps I shouldn’t do it after all (don’t mess with their traditions!!).

As strange as it may sound, as a transsexual woman, although I feel it is very nearly my ‘duty’ to oppose the very idea of social gender roles and expectations, I coincidentally subscribe to those very concepts. Whether this is a product of my very nature, or my desire for social validation, I can’t properly say. What I can say is that I enjoy being treated ‘like a woman’, and all that entails. I enjoy when men offer to carry something for me, or any other common chivalric behaviors. I enjoy, in a strange way, it being assumed that I am going to take forever and a day to get ready (this is actually true). I enjoy having my appearance complimented first and my skills and aptitudes second. It pleases me when other women ask me for appearance checks or fashion advice. I even find it pleasant when my general way of being loose with my affections has garnered me a reputation of being a certain level of slutty.

A thing that I can say with certainty though: While I have endured much pain, self-loathing, despair, listlessness, and a slew of other negative emotions in regards to my transsexualism, I have come to realize that I wouldn’t trade it for being cisgender. This is more of a recent revelation, although one made with conviction. I can honestly say that very few individuals in this life are given (take?) the experience of walking on two very distinct, and yet surprisingly similar at times, paths. The strange and entirely unique spin it has given my perspective is…priceless. I mean…how many people do you know that have had the opportunity to sashay into a party in a little black dress and towering stilettos and also play Offensive Tackle?

 

*Thanks S!  I appreciate your enlightening share and am curious as to how your perspective will continue to shift.  Cheers!

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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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random love, relationshipping

Let’s jump ponds

Sex changesIt’s time for an adventure.

But why does anyone do an international move?
To find themselves
or to run away.

Before I started dating S, I knew I’d move from the American South but that was to be a decidedly domestic decision between my beloved NYC and possibly Philadelphia.

Then when S and I got serious, so did the international-ness of next destination- Spain or Japan.

Why Japan?

I used to give what I thought was a well thought-out answer:
I wanted to get in touch with my cultural roots.
I wanted to be in a big city again.
I wanted to be in a more creative city.

As the move-out date approaches after S comes out as trans, I begin to doubt.
I ask S on occasion, “We’re not pulling a geographic with this move, are we?”

She’s not.
She’s fulfilling her original goal of living abroad.
She’s had enough of America and her mostly very conservative and narrow-minded hometown.

But me?

I think if I name the thing I don’t want to be guilty of, it will keep it at bay. Except every time I want reassurance that I’m not running away, something in my gut sends an, uh-oh alert to my brain. As in, I’m definitely running away. Because these days more than simply wanting an adventure, I want to be in a new place. I want to consider my transsexual relationship away from the trappings of a small and (too) familiar town where everyone who finds out about S’s transsexuality has a pointed opinion they are not shy about sharing; usually it’s ultimately supportive (after many questions) but sometimes it’s downright mean.

A year and some months pass and I think about living in Japan.
I haven’t run away yet as I haven’t escaped the confrontations that come with a rigorous raking over of me and S’s future.
Case in point: we are no longer coupled and despite moments of wanting to jet on the immediate, I stay put. I work out the highs and lows of living in a far-off unfamiliar that still doesn’t feel like home. I’m also at peace knowing that I may not ever feel completely at home here; Tokyo was never intended as a final destination.

As for finding myself, that’s certainly happened and continues to, thank goodness. This life is an often funny and delightful little mindfuck in that just when I’ve figured something out, made the hard choice and breathed a sigh of, “Okay…that bit is finished,” I am shocked at what comes next.

So the next side of my never-ending relationship Rubik’s cube?
I’m just beginning to unpuzzle this one but it revolves around a specific notion of control as a new adventure begins…

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random love

Perfect attendance

My eyeballs need cocainewas never my thing.

***

Except once.
Once in my life I didn’t miss a class the whole semester.

Goddammit, no Cont Art/Theory/Crit for me. Again.
I have yet to have a schedule that will allow my learning about Now Art so I take High Modern instead, which cuts off exactly when I get highly interested- 1968.
My sculpture advisor has such a constant hard-on for the macho gay artists of this period that I wonder if I’m going to witness the same reel of aggressive, testosterone-driven Rauschenberg, Johns, Pollock images and bios referenced in sculpture class.

Turns out, no.
The professor is a junkie for contemporary art, a beyond serious museum nerd and reputed to be a hard-as-nails, total bitch.
In other words, I will probably have a crush on her in a matter of days.
I smile.

This woman lives for modern art and I love her for it. She’s pretty ruthless if you don’t give two shits about investigating the why behind the art(ists) in their historical and contemporary context but the class cares. And though she’ll cut down lofty musings not grounded in earnest investigation of the topic at hand during class, she’s a really generous professor. For instance, her attendance policy: 100% attendance=final exam opt-out. Hell. Yes.

End-of-semester usually entails many hours of underslept hell on earth so eliminating one more exam/project sounds awesome. Except I like this class; I look forward to it and perfect attendance turns out to be a pretty painless endeavor.
This is unusual because I always skip a class or two. Sometime it’s because I can’t be in two places at once but often, I enjoy taking a personal day; I’ve done this since I was in my single digits.

***

So I’m memory tripping to a perfect attendance moment because of my recent FAILed attempt to post daily for the month of December. Pre-scheduled posts much? Right…I haven’t mastered that one yet. *sigh*

Still, let’s see what happens the rest of the month…although I guess it’s silly to daily post challenge during maximum holiday cheer month.
But I’m in Japan where people work on 12.25; there are no holidays in December*, which is extremely weird.
So of course I’m taking a personal day…it’s fucking Christmas for chrissakes.

*I lied; the Emperor’s birthday is December 23rd=holiday

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