I feel obliged to share this very happy picture of me with this very dapper lady, Kotomi, that I met at Osora ni Niji wo Kake Mashita, the only openly gay, female-owned bar in Aomori while on our way to eat the freshest and delicious uni in a quaint little town called Sai (thank you Xan Wetherall for sharing your hidden food treasures!).
When I saw the cafe bar, I was awestruck, not expecting to find a rare place I’d only heard about. Social anxiety hit me, and I was nervous to come in. As a masculine-of-center Asian-American female, I was excited to meet Kotomi. She was hanging out having a smoke, noticed I was family, and happily welcomed me inside. I shyly introduced myself to Okacchi, the bar owner, and ordered some liquid courage in the form of the best Aomori nihonshuu Okacchi had in stock. We talked about Tokyo and mutual friends, and when I was inebriated enough, video conferenced a mutual friend, and had the best night with people I felt at home with in Tohoku that I’d had in a while.
Kotomi and I still follow each other on Instagram. The other day, she posted a picture of a meeting room, with the caption “Domestic partnership in Sapporo will begin on June 1st, 2017! It’s decided!” It was great news, and even better to know that it would allow Kotomi and her friends the opportunity for a family life.
When same-sex marriage or domestic partnership laws in Asia take the time to consider what’s right for the community (rather than trying to prove its modernity, or make money off of us), it gives me hope. I had always felt that the LGBT movement for Asian-Americans was missing something: our ethnic motherland did not recognize us, therefore, neither do our parents or grandparents. Ideas like being gay is a Western invention (But so is being Christian, for the families who are!) isolate us from our cultural identities, and often we are also left out of our adopted Western culture for not being white. Some of us don’t see a place for ourselves, and end up choosing the way out.
There is a side of me that I usually keep under wraps because it’s not all of me. But I find it necessary to show it every once in a while as a reminder that this part of me cannot be ignored, and must be loved as well. I fear that people, especially family, will only love who they want to see, rather than love who is actually there.