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

botched allyship & language barriers #TRP2017

ie. that time when a women’s sex toy store promoted much needed awareness of diversity at Tokyo Rainbow Pride, but due to incredibly poor research on their part as well as a language barrier that is not their fault, inadvertently ended up spreading damaging misinformation about intersex people, polysexuality and ‘skoliosexuality’, among other things.

and of course i kind of went off on Twitter about it because that’s what i do when i’m not going off about something on Tumblr instead.

like every year, Love Piece Club, a very well known Tokyo-based shop and website for women, had a booth at Tokyo Rainbow Pride this year. at past Prides that i’ve been to (both in and outside of Tokyo) they have been one of  (if not The) Only booth(s) selling miscellaneous small goods (badges, stickers, etc) in more than just rainbow flag colors. because of that, i know that they have a proven track record of acknowledging and promoting diversity at Pride events. this year, however, they upped their game not only by selling 16 different small flags, but also featuring those flags and brief explanations about the identities they represent in both a pamphlet that they were handing out as well as a display board at their booth. wandering around aimlessly taking photos, i came across their booth surprised and excited to see the flags. took some snaps, bought a couple flags and left having been handed a pamphlet, which i promptly took photos of and uploaded to Twitter before continuing my meanderings.

i didn’t read the pamphlet until much later, after all the chaos of Pride was over…


the pamphlet includes words / identities lifted directly out of English, transcribed phonetically into Japanese. among others are:

skoliosexual: romantic / sexual attraction towards people exclusive of cisgender people.

intersex: a gender / sex where reproductive organs cannot be clearly determined to be male or female.

hermaphrodite: a positive way of saying “ryouseiguyuu”. (”hermaphroditism” in Japanese).

autosexual: experiencing sexual desire towards oneself.

genderqueer: a gender identity that does not fit within the confines of pre-existing genders or a gender fluid person.

bigender: identifying as both male and female.

polysexual: romantic / sexual attraction to three or more genders including males, females, transgenders, etc.

anyway, by then the tweet had been interacted with by a surprising number of people… at first i was content to just lament my mistake with a few words and move on, but a Japanese friend pressed me to send her more detailed photos of the pamphlet because she’d never heard of or seen most of the flags / identities on it and wanted to learn. i told her that i had issues with the pamphlet and she said she wanted to know about that too, so i took closer photos of the pamphlet, slapped “brief” rants onto some things and sent it to her. she was happy to read it, one thing led to another and images of snippets of the pamphlet with sloppy, uncensored rants in-tact got uploaded to Twitter… where that then got interacted with a lot because Japanese Twitter is ヤバッ.

among other things, my sloppy, uncensored rants included:

‘skoliosexual’ isn’t a good word [to use]. besides, the translation of its meaning is wrong (’romantic or sexual attraction towards people who aren’t male or female’ would be more accurate fwiw), in English this word isn’t even used anymore and most people won’t know of it. there are lots of other major issues with the word, but i’m guessing the person who made this brochure put this word here without knowing any of that.

you absolutely shouldn’t use [hermaphrodite]. not only historically, but also in present day it’s a word that hurts people. “positive” is written here but wtf does that even mean? once again the creator [of this] put [this word] here without doing proper research. → intersex

[autosexual] isn’t used at all outside of the field of medicine.

although [genderqueer] means more than this as well.

bigender means that a person has two gender identities, regardless of whether those genders are male / female.

[re: polysexual] once again, the meaning is wrong. moreover, plz stop treating trans people like some ‘third gender’.

as the tweet made its rounds, a conversation started between me and a friend about the correct way to refer to intersex people. @DSD_info, a bot that spreads intersex awareness and education in Japanese on Twitter that i’ve followed for a while, joined in on the conversation, tweeting (among other things):

and adding onto that, intersex isn’t “a gender / sex where reproductive organs cannot be clearly determined to be male or female” it’s “the condition of having a body that does not fit antiquated definitions of male / female bodies”. hermaphrodite, in Japanese “haninyou”, “ryouseiguyuu”, “otoko demo onna demo nai seibetsu” (”a sex that is neither man or woman”), is an extremely offensive slur that you should not use.

“unable to be determined male or female”, “third sex”, “middle [sex]”, “both male and female”– these explanations and words used to mean the same thing are approximate to what “okama” (see: English ‘fag’) and “onee” (see: English ‘tranny’) is for LGBTX people.

long story short, Love Piece Club was eventually directed to the tweet with my embarrassingly sloppy and tacky rants…. cue the most overly dramatic, embarrassed facepalm EVER.

their response?

thank you for the points you’ve made. we will cease in earnest our imperfect publications and will update our blog once we have reexamined all of our publications. thank you.

…………….i’ve had a lot that i’ve wanted to say about the way in which words are precariously and haphazardly imported into Japanese from English, especially in regards to LGBTQIA-related terminology, for a long time now, but…..

not right now.

just as i wanted nothing more than to phase off the internet to be left to twiddle my thumbs and picking at stuff i shouldn’t anxiously in peace offline, a newfound friend and fellow ace whom i met at TRP responds to one of my tweets wondering about why ace terminology is what it currently is in Japanese….

….and for those who don’t already know, the more anxious i am the more long winded (and sloppy) i become, so cue a longass series of clumsy tweets– COMING SOON! to your Tumblr dashboard if you happen follow this blog.

but first, i have to sleep and work and function and shit. brb.

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

Leave a comment?