Homosexuality as a class privilege

It feels weird to me that as an Asian-American queer, my coming out process included being seen as white-washing and Western acculturation, but today, there are white queer people navigating academia in the Asian queer context, in search of further legitimize the acceptance of homosexuality in societies.

But this answer to a question about LGBTs in Japan says it best that “sexual relations with the same sex” were “in addition to legitimate heterosexual marriage and family-rearing, and they were appropriate only for men in positions of power.”

I have been contemplating this for a while that historically, being queer is a privilege, and this really hits the nail on the head. So I find non-Asian queer academics who pursue studies on homosexuality in Asian countries to be opportunistic of this class privilege by making themselves the purveyors and experts of this “culture” in the English-speaking world.

 

The guesthouse from hell

My sister and I stayed two nights in Osaka to do a daytrip to Mt. Koya. Since Osaka is pretty huge, I figured there’d be guesthouses to stay at. I originally wanted to stay at some smaller ones that housed maybe a dozen guests, but since it was a weekend, everything was booked up. The only place left was Sakura Guest House. What was nice about the space is that it’s women only, so we assumed it was safe. It was situated near a big train station, and seemed convenient enough to stay. We took  the last 2 beds.

The entrance was on the side of alleyway. I figured it would be nicer once we stepped inside, but the foyer was cramped and tiny enclosed by another door that led to the living space. The front desk was blocked with plastic containers and we couldn’t barely even see the guy behind it when he checked us in.

The living space was fine enough, and there were a couple girls sitting there, a Middle Eastern and Korean, using the free WiFi, staring at their smartphones.  My sister and I carried our luggage to our room on the 3rd of 5 floors. We went passed a crowded room of what sounded like a group of Malaysian girls, and found our room, cramped with 4 sets of bunk beds, dark, and strewn with extension cords. It looked like a fire hazard.

We settled in, and found the beds to be nice enough, your typical IKEA bunk beds and thin mattresses. But when my sister went to take a shower, there was no hot water, and when I went to check it out, the facility seemed like a slipshod shack of a few shower stalls made to look nice with new wood and a coat of paint on top of an open roof. The shower floor was bolstered by wood planks, and water would flow underneath right on the concrete.

With the cramped space and the extension cords snaking everywhere in the room, a single light right on top of my bed, and only curtains separating our beds and our room, it was hard not to think that in the middle of the night, we would die of a fire sparked by a neglected power outlet, or be assaulted by people let in by the old man managing the guesthouse, as the place was cheap and attracted women from all parts of the world to stay. Obviously not, since that would have been reported by now.  But while the facilities were minimally fine to use, the huge trash cans were filled to the brim before being emptied, and a place that doesn’t look to be well maintained doesn’t make a tourist feel like they’re taken care of. In a sense, for me, the atmosphere of the place felt like a brothel of unsuspecting victims.

Luckily, we only needed a place to sleep, and on our second night, I wouldn’t let my sister suffer through another cold shower, so we went to find a nearby public bath. It was about a 15 minute walk to get to, and I honestly, didn’t know what to expect. The lady at the front seemed pretty tough, and when I paid for our fee, she gave me a funny look when I told her we’d be using the women’s bath. I guess that’s kind of a funny thing to say, but I get mis-gendered so often, it’s starting to become reflex to make sure people get me.

The bath was great, and there were different pools to hop into. My sister was enjoying herself, but I still kept aware of my surroundings. I kept my eye on one person, a big-boned lady with bleached short hair. It was hard to tell whether she was part of a gang, or simply a housewife. I suppose she could have been a lesbian as well. I could tell she was glancing at me every now and then. I wondered what she was thinking. And all the old ladies? Well, I would hate it if one came up to me and told me off for offending them with my, I don’t know, atypical crotch. But they don’t do that in Japan.

I was so glad when we finally checked out of our guesthouse. I vowed to never stay again, or let anyone I know stay there either, unless they were desperate. No more guesthouses in Osaka for me!

English Education

http://www.npr.org/2012/07/11/156377938/korean-families-chase-their-dreams-in-the-u-s

I’ve thought a lot about education access and the goals of education while I’ve been out here in a small Japanese city. After reading this article, it bothers me that compulsory education in the States is an alternative to education in one’s home country. While I can agree on its advantages, I can’t shake the feeling that the West is causing a brain drain in all parts of the world. When people go abroad to be educated, do they opt to come back to their home countries to make it better?

Not a lot of my kids care so much about going abroad, which would exponentially improve their English learning. But they also get to learn a ton of other things that they probably would never learn in the States. For instance, students learn about geography in far deeper ways than what I learned in school, like topography, weather, and ocean patterns in and around their country. They learn classical Japanese, calligraphy in art class, their deep national history, as well as world history. They cultivate their own cultural identity, so you have kids who want to stay close and improve their communities. English may not be their strongest point, but working in Japan doesn’t require native fluency.

I suppose if you have ambitions in an international company, native fluency would surely help, but these kids would lose out on bringing cultural perspectives and intellectual diversity to the boardroom table.

wEEves

Hello World!

I’ve been going through various stages of excitement and ennui, and have been trying to find my baseline to settle my thoughts and actually write something I’m comfortable enough to publish. My latest drafts since my last post have covered my approach to love, my (dis)connect with Vietnam, my commitment to Asian-American politics, and a self-gratuitous reflection on my latest project in connecting my students with my friend’s Japanese language students in Cupertino via penpal letters. Some are reflections of events: accidentally discovering that my most recent ex had gotten married (Facebook tag notifications suck), and the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon.

I feel like I have a tendency to trail off my thought process, hoping that the other person could help me finish it. It’s kind of a way to gauge how much the other person is following, but I don’t use it as a friendship test. It’s more like, “Is this interesting to you?” I don’t know where I picked it up from, but Japan and usage of Japanese works this way as well. Interestingly, if a person were to finish their sentence, that would be the end of the conversation. If they trail off, it’s like, “Hey, I’m not brave enough to say this, but I appreciate it if you can understand.”

Anyway, I find that my drafts end up being open-ended, waiting for feedback. I have to come back to it after thinking from all sides because once you’ve stated your opinion, an opposing side won’t listen unless you’ve considered their side. Also, I don’t like to fuel someone in agreement without them being aware of another perspective because nothing is black and white.

I’ve always felt like I ride the fence when it comes to discussing things, and I see sense in opposing views, even if I don’t agree, but ensuring your own well-being to live and be a living example of your views is its own statement.