[A]sexuality,  Japan[ese],  Queer[ness]

Japanese gender / queer theory, anyone?

…so i randomly went to Book Off (used bookstore) today after work and happened to find two used books on gender studies / gender theory that not only explicitly discuss binarism and how society ignores those who are neither of the binary genders (male / female) nor either of the binary sexualities (gay / straight)– there’s also explicit mention of asexuality and the alphabet soup where the acronym LGBTIAQ is used and I is defined as “Intersex”, A as “Asexual” and Q as “Queer”.

notably, these books were published in ① 2013 & ② 2006 and are original works by Japanese authors rather than books imported into Japan and translated into Japanese.

below are super rough (because i’m starving, exhausted and need to go to bed damnit) English translations for the above snippets.

book ①: 「ジェンダー論をつかむ」 by 千田 有紀・中西 祐子・青山 薫 (2013)

(1.1) […] In unit 3 we touched upon how sexuality also ends up being decided by gender due to strong influence from a society where people are divided into the genders of “man” and “woman”. For example, if a man is attracted to a woman or a woman attracted to a man, they are said to be heterosexual; if a man is attracted to a man or a woman attracted to a woman, they are said to be homosexual. In other words, even “hetero” (different) and “homo” (same) wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the concept of the division between “man” and “woman”. Furthermore, both in regards to gender and sexual attraction, dividing people into two binary categories is unreasonable.

Firstly, there are many people who in fact experience dysphoria or repulsion in regards to the two binary genders. There are people who physically do not fit into either category (→ unit 2). In fact, it might be better to say that between current “man” / “woman”, “homosexuality” / “heterosexuality” there aren’t clear-cut lines but rather a smooth, continuous spectrum between them. Questioning gender categories is an important point when it comes to both ideas and politics concerning gender.

(1.2) [ see below for *notes ]

…as seen together with the person’s gender as seen by society. Sex(ual) orientation is the gender that one’s sexual interests are directed towards; in other words, it shows who a person is potentially sexually attracted to. There is currently debate over words used to convey “the direction of one’s sexual interest” with “sex(ual) orientation”, “sex(ual) inclination” and “sex(ual) preference” also being used. “Sex(ual) inclination” means willfully choosing who one has the potential to be attracted to; “sex(ual) preference” means it’s [a matter of taste…]

book ②: 「ジェンダー学への道案内」 by 高橋 準 (2006)

(2.1) As mentioned in Chapter 1, if there are those among us who like people of the same gender, there are also people who like people of a different gender. There are also people who like both genders and those who don’t like anyone in a sexual way. Irregardless of the gender of the person(s) in question, those who choose to love (sexually or romantically) people of the same gender are referred to as “homosexual”, those who choose people of a different gender “heterosexual”, those who choose either / both “bisexual” and those who who have no sexual orientation “asexual”** (asexual – this word is originally a biology term meaning “genderless, asexual reproduction” as an adjective). These are roughly the different types of sexual orientations.

(2.2) […] From the point of view of Mx. K, I haven’t decided whether I’m a man or a woman and / or neither, so it can be hard to say whether I’m hetero or anything else. On the other hand, even if I’m told by a counselor that “love is something you do with your head”, having lived life up until now without knowing the physical sensations or [the] responses [thereof] of myself or a partner* and having unknowningly internalized mainstream values are certainly not unrelated. Whether a person is hetero or not a lesbian is defined as “homosexual women”, but what am I when I can’t say for certain that I’m a woman– even if you respond to Mx. A saying all of that without hesitation, the fact is that confusion will undoubtedly remain.

(2.3) To refer to a situation like this, it might definitely be good to us the word “queer” because until we can reach a point where we’re comfortable, we can still reject the categories that others try to force onto us while simultaneously being able to connect with others like ourselves who have not / cannot come to a decision about themselves. That said, of course, it’s not a easily done as written here.

Furthermore, there is queer theory founded upon this queer knowledge, but this book will not go into that. Please refer to the book guide at the end of this chapter.

Let’s recap the things that have been covered thus far in this chapter. Homosexuality, in other words lesbian…

(2.4) …(homosexual women) and gay (homosexual men), Bisexuality and let’s not forget the T’s [Transsexual and Transgender], Intersex and Asexuality. Let’s add “queer” to the end of it and look at all of the respective initials together. “LGBTIAQ”– it might look like nothing more than a random string of letters and you’re right, it does look like that if you only look at the letters [themselves]. However, all of the things that we’ve covered up to this point are all included within these few letters. In other words, there are many many types of minorities within society and on top of that, we want to put an end to unfairness that happens even among minorities. There are some who use “LGBT”, some who use “LGBTQ” and yet others who use various other variations. I’ve tried to cram as much information as possible into it here– but no. Even this might be insufficient because there is no definitive end to it and just as is conveyed in the concept of “queer”, from the viewpoint of gender and sexuality things are always fluid and new situations are always arising; we’re just trying to keep up with it. […]

….goddamn, some of that was tough to translate. i’m even hungrier and more exhausted now. *wanders off*

*genuine: as noted in the image itself, “genuine male” / “genuine female” are direct translations of 純男 and 純女 respectively. these are the words that Japanese people have used and continue to use today to refer to people of binary genders who are not trans, although シスジェンダー, the phonetic equivalent of English “cisgender”, is just now slowly but steadily gaining ground among trans and non-binary people. it should also be noted here, as it is in the book itself, that this diagram and the way of thinking that it illustrates are all kinds of problematic.


**asexual: in this text “asexual” is written both as アセクシャル and エイセクシャル, the latter of which is a way of writing “asexual” in Japanese that i haven’t come across since 2014?? as it has since fallen out of usage.

YouTuber and Blogger, Vesper is an American expat currently living in Japan.

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