Friday, October 25, 2013

Go Seiji!

I can't say I pay any attention to sports. I know that there are Japanese players on the Red Sox and I might even be able to name them, but that's where my knowledge ends. I only recently learned that the team has a player from Hawaii who's part Japanese and Okinawan and he's the reason they made it to the World Series again.

When I was looking at local news the other day this entertaining Boston-St. Louis (orchestra) smack talk video caught my eye. I love that Seiji Ozawa is rocking some bright red sneakers!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Part 3: Well-known LGBT Japanese Americans

This post is part of a three-part series. 
This post is a work in progress. Am I missing someone? Please leave a comment or email me at keiko dot in dot boston [at] gmail dot com!
Last updated: 1/28/18

Woo! I'm excited to have reached post #100! When I started writing, I wasn't really sure if anyone would be interested in reading or if I'd stay interested long enough to stick with it. I started Japanese-American in Boston mainly out of frustration at the lack of any good English language resources for people looking for Japanese stuff in Boston. I had hoped that if I started writing, maybe the information would come to me. While it's true that some of my friends (and occasionally readers) do tell me things that make their way onto the blog, the main things that's changed is that I'm more motivated to look for Japanese stuff in the area. I've discovered that there was already a lot that I just didn't know about. It's certainly helpful to finally be plugged into the local Japanese community but as it turns out that my past isolation was mainly due to laziness.

Still, it can be difficult to find your way out of isolation if you don't even realize how alone you feel, why you feel alone, or don't know where to look. That's one of the reasons I wanted to write this series. Before I joined QAPA, I had never met another LGBT Japanese American. I decided to put this list together for other LGBT JAs so you'll know you're not a unicorn.

When I was looking around for well-known LGBT Japanese Americans to point to when I came out to my family, the only one I could think of was George Takei. Last year for LGBT History Month The Huffington Post came out with a list of The Most Influential LGBT Asian Icons. I was ecstatic when I saw it, but disappointed to realize there were only 7 Japanese Americans (out of 54). If they're on the list, their number will appear next to their name. Further research didn't turn up too many more people, but I'm hoping this list will grow over time.

Letters in parentheses indicate (L)esbian, (G)ay, (B)isexual, (T)ransgender, GQ - genderqueer, (Q)ueer, Boi, (P)arent of an LGBT child. I recognize that some people dislike boxes. I've chosen to include these categorizations for ease of finding someone who might be like you, because I found it frustrating that it was impossible to find other JA bisexuals. If I can't find references to how someone identifies, I will not list a category. An asterisk * denotes Japanese Okinawan Americans.

Famous People

This section lists public figures and spouses of public figures. My rough standard for inclusion on this list is whether someone (or their spouse) is famous enough to have a Wikipedia page or be mentioned on a Wikipedia page.

Everyday People

This section lists LGBT people and their parents, and one "proud jichan" (grandpa) who are speaking out for our community. Several of these folks came to my attention through the great work of API Family Pride, which I believe may be the only organization of its kind. There are many support organizations for parents and families of LGBT people, but I believe API Family Pride is the only one that is Asian-specific.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Part 2: LGBT Resources

This post is part of a three-part series. 

This post is a work in progress and will be updated as I find new resources I like. If you have a suggestion, please leave a comment!
Last updated: 7/15/16

Over the course of researching how to come out to my family I was disappointed with how few resources were geared towards Japanese Americans or even Asian Americans. I'm guessing that if you've found your way to this page, you may be an LGBTQ person with Japanese or Asian ancestry. My hope is that some of the resources I found helpful in educating myself and boosting my morale, will be helpful for you and your family. Unfortunately, most of the resources and testimonials listed on this page are written by/produced by/about Caucasians and mostly deal with gays and lesbians. I apologize for the lack of diversity represented here, but it's a reflection of what's out there. I hope that over time I can find more Japanese American and Asian American-specific resources.

Need someone to talk to?
You can call The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386 24 hours a day.
You can also text and chat with them during certain hours.

Asian-Specific LGBT Organizations

There are many regional Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander LGBT groups which I've decided not to list since researching which ones are still active and then keeping the list up-to-date would be time consuming. NQAPIA's list of Alliance Members should be fairly comprehensive, but you might want to try searches with the name of your region to see if there are other organizations in your area. I do want to highlight a few organizations.

  • API Family Pride: Asian and Pacific Islander Family Pride is a support organization for parents, families and friends of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • NQAPIA: National Queen Asian Pacific Islander Alliance is a federation of LGBTQ Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander organizations.
  • QAPA: Queen Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance is the nation's oldest Asian queer organization and serves New England. 
  • Even though Equality Hawaii is not Asian-specific, because of Hawaii's demographics they've produced the most videos specific to the Asian American LGBT experience (or featuring Asian Americans) of all the sites I've looked at. You may want to peruse their other resourcesvimeo channel, and TV show, Equally Speaking.
  • While Stonewall Japan is a Japan-based organization (and not Asian-specific), their website is mostly in English. Their resources and content are pretty Japan-specific, but you might come across something helpful there if you're looking for Japanese content for your parents.

Articles/Videos/Projects for Japanese & Asian Americans

Documentary about Asian children (Filipino and Chinese) coming out to their families. The entire film used to be online but parts 2 and 3 seem to have disappeared. The full video can be purchased from API Family Pride
Documentary about Christian Asian American gays and lesbians. The website for this film is gone but it is archived by the Internet Archive.
"A national portrait + video project dedicated to Queer Asian American Women, Trans, and Gender non-conforming communities." This is a fantastic photo and video project by Japanese Americans, Mia Nakano and Shawn Tamaribuchi. You can donate to their Crowdrise campaign.
This is a wonderful multilingual, multimedia project that "aspires to foster greater visibility, pride, acceptance, unity, and harmony for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Asians & Pacific Islander (API) people in our families, cultural communities and beyond, no matter where we are! We believe in the power of sharing, connecting, and relating to give API families and communities the support they need when struggling with the challenges of our sexual and gender identities in the API cultural context."
"Coming out stories from Asian Pacific Islanders by API Equality-LA." "Q&A is a play on the common phrase “question and answer” and the term “queer and Asian.”" This is a great collection of essays from queer Asians, their parents, and allies.
"The Dragon Fruit Project is an inter-generational oral history project that explores queer Asian Pacific Islanders and their experiences with love and activism in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s." Japanese Americans Amy Sueyoshi and Tina Takemoto are working on this project. This project is just getting started, so materials aren't available to the public yet.
Launched in June 2014, this new section of Asian American magazine Hyphen is being produced in partnership with The Visibility Project. They are seeking volunteers.
Short film directed by Hung An Nguyen. Selected for the 2013 Boston Asian American Film Festival Short Waves: Stories Shaping Our Community program. Hung tells his story as a first generation Vietnamese American gaysian and talks about his family and in particular his relationship with his mother.
  • Heart School (ハートをつなごう学校 hāto o tsunago gakkō) - This is Japan's version of the It Gets Better Project. This may only be helpful for those who speak Japanese or whose parents speak Japanese, but I wanted to mention it, since it's so difficult to find videos of Japanese American LGBT people talking about their experiences. Heart School's website is entirely in Japanese and most of the videos are in Japanese but there are a few that aren't. You can read about it in English here.
  • I also want to mention that I've been really surprised by how LGBT-friendly NHK is (Japan's national public broadcaster). My parents saw a documentary about transgender people in Japan on NHK World. I contacted NHK and they thought it was 家族で向き合う「性同一性障害」(kazokude mukiau sei doitsusei shogai which my friend tells me translates to "Family dealing with (its member's) Gender Identity Disorder"). NHK described it as "a segment about people diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder and their families," that aired on their asaichi (あさイチ) program. Unfortunately, it isn't available online. It seems that a lot their LGBT content is on Heart Net TV (Japanese only), a variety show. I found some episodes on a subject's YouTube channel. See also: Weddings! below.

General Resources

Articles & Papers

  • What the Science Says and Doesn't Say about Homosexuality  - This great pamphlet by Soulforce, a non-profit that works to end religious and political oppression of LGBTQI people, is available for free as a pdf. 6/4/15: Soulforce updated their website this year and the pdf no longer appears to be available on their site. I've linked to a random PFLAG site that has it online. Soulforce didn't respond to my inquiry asking if it would be putting the pdf back online.

Web Videos

  • It Gets Better Project (videos tagged Asian American, although the tag is not actually that useful) - I can't tell you how helpful this project was in getting me to the point where I could come out to my family and be 100% out. Some of the videos are pretty wrenching though. Break out the tissues before you watch. Watching videos did bring a mix of emotions including guilt that I wasn't fully out. Try not to measure yourself against anyone else. Everyone has their own timetable, and as Belinda Dronkers-Laureta of API Family Pride said to me when I told her I hadn't yet come out to my extended family, "You'll know when the time is right."


    Documentary about the love between Shane Bitney Crone & Tom Bridegroom,
    a young gay couple who considered each other family, and what happened to Shane in the aftermath of Tom's accidental death because they weren't married. This film grew out of Shane's viral video "It Could Happen to You." There's some discussion of God and religion, so this would be appropriate for people who are religious, but there isn't a heavy focus on it. Check to see if your local library has it. See the trailer.
    Watch President Bill Clinton introduce Bridegroom at its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2013. Powerful stuff from the guy who once backed DOMA and DADT.
    Documentary about Boston-area LGBT senior citizens. So much of what's out there about LGBT people is about young or middle-aged people. We rarely hear the stories of seniors. Some parents might find they can relate to these folks. The film is unfortunately not available on DVD, but they stream it online periodically so you can watch it at home. You can sign up for email to find out when their next home viewing event is
    Documentary about allegedly closeted politicians who support anti-gay legislation. I found this fascinating and started thinking about homophobia in a whole new way. I also found discussion of what the closet does to you eye-opening and curiously familiar, even though I'd never felt very closeted. I got the film through my library network. 

    Resources for Christians & those with Christian Families

    Even if, like me, you're not religious, you may find these resources helpful for yourself or to share with your relatives.

    LGBT Christian Organizations

    Web Resources & Articles

    • What the Bible Says and Doesn't Say about Homosexuality - This great pamphlet by Soulforce, a non-profit that works to end religious and political oppression of LGBTQI people, is available for free as a pdf or you can purchase a booklet. 6/4/15: Soulforce updated their website this year and the pdf no longer appears to be available on their site. I've linked to a Pentecostal church that has it online, but I'm not endorsing them. Soulforce didn't respond to my inquiry asking if it would be putting the pdf back online.
    • John Shore, a straight progressive Christian blogger, writes a lot about LGBT issues and Christianity (archives on Patheos). He can be a bit strident at times, but during the early days of doing research before coming out to my family, reading his blog felt like having my own personal cheerleader.
    • I'm Christian, unless you're gay. Straight former Mormon blogger, Dan Pearce, opines about the need all of us have to feel superior to others. Single Dad Laughing, November 11, 2011.
      • Video, in which he reads a slightly edited version of the above.
      • Video with selected responses he's received (it's all text with background music). 
      • Lots of incredibly moving emails he's received from people.

    Web Videos

    Books & Films 

    by Andrew Marin of The Marin Foundation
    Andrew describes himself as a former "Bible-banging homophobe." After his three best friends came out to him within a short period of time, he moved to Chicago's gay 'Boystown' neighborhood to learn more about LGBT culture and people. The book is written to a Christian audience to explain what many LGBT people have been through, how the anti-gay rhetoric contributes to their suffering, and how they can reach out to LGBT people effectively.
    by Timothy Kurek
    A straight homophobic man from the South lives life undercover as a gay man for one year  (à la Black Like Me) to challenge his own homophobia. Some people are offended by Tim's methods, but I found it a compelling read that I couldn't put down. I think it takes a lot of strength to challenge long-held beliefs, especially when people around you don't see anything wrong with them. I imagine this book might be helpful in opening the eyes of other straight Christians who have no context for beginning to understanding what some LGBT people experience. 
    by Mel White
    The Rev. Dr. Mel White's memoir about his life as a closeted conservative Christian and his long process of coming out. For some reason I found this book therapeutic, although it's an emotionally tough read at times. 
    by Shari Johnson
    Shari's memoir about her journey from homophobic mother to embracing mother. Shari has also written some good op-eds in The Advocate: Op-ed: Confession of an Evangelical Mom and The Salt Lake Tribune: A Christian speaks: I begged God to change my gay daughter, but God changed me.
    Gays & lesbians and their Christian parents are interviewed about their coming out/acceptance journeys. I first watched it streaming on Netflix but you could also check your library network.
    For the Bible Tells Me So Study Guide 
    For those who already have the DVD, the study guide can be purchased for individual use for $5. You need to email them for the link to purchase.
    Documentary about retired Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, the first out gay bishop in Christendom. I caught part of this on PBS and then got the DVD through my library network. It moved me to tears.

    Personal Testimonials

    This is a list of testimonials that have spoken to me. I wish this list were more diverse.

    • George Takei and his husband, Brad (né Altman), discuss their wedding and marriage equality on their one year wedding anniversary (English with Japanese subtitles). Uploaded September 15, 2009. See also: Weddings! below. 
    • Joel Burns, City Councilman for District 9 for Fort Worth, Texas speaking at an October 12, 2010 city council meeting about LGBT youth suicides and his journey as a gay man. 
    • Bishop Kevin Kloosterman, a straight Mormon, speaks (transcript) about how he came to understand what the Mormon church has put its LGBT members through. November 6, 2011 at Circling the Wagons, a conference for LGBTQ Mormons and their friends, families and allies.
    • (Then) Governor Chris Gregoire of Washington explains why she is introducing a marriage equality bill and talks about her personal journey in the Q&A on January 4, 2012. 
    • An illuminating speech from Rev. Phil Snider who spoke in August 2012 at a Springfield, Missouri city council meeting in support of gay marriage by using quotes from white preachers who used the Bible to speak against racial integration in the '50s and '60s. Rev. Snider explains his speech.
    • Andy Marra, an adopted Korean American transgender woman writes about meeting her birth mom and how that gave her the courage to take the last step in her transition. The Huffington Post Gay Voices section, November 16, 2012.
    • Gary Lim & Kenneth Chee, a Singaporean gay couple currently challenging Section 377A of Singapore's Criminal Code which outlaws sex between men. They tell the story of how they met and why they're fighting to repeal the law. April 15, 2013.
    • How Evan Smith Became Vivienne Ming: An Incredible Story Of Self-Discovery - This one isn't a first-person testimonial - it's an article about Vivienne Ming, a Caucasian transgender woman who is married to a cisgender Asian American woman who was her wife before her transition. (Ming is a combination of her original last name Smith and her wife's last name, Ng.) It's a somewhat odd read since it sounds a bit like a paid advertisement for her headhunting company mixed in with the story of her transition, but it paints a picture of the sort of pain most transgender people live with before they realize that transitioning is something they have to do and shows how normal their family life is. I'm including it because it's the first portrait of an Asian American family with a transgender parent that I've come across. The Huffington Post OWN Empower Yourself section, October 12, 2013. [This article was originally published under the title Can You See The Real Me? Vivienne Ming's Incredible Story of Self-Discovery in the September 2013 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. I think the articles are identical -  I just linked to The Huffington Post because it's a single page. I hate it when articles are spread across 8 pages.]
    • Gigi Chao wrote an open letter to her billionaire dad, Cecil Chao, who wouldn't accept that she was married to a woman and offered a multi-million dollar dowry to any man in the world who could court her successfully. Nevermind that she's already married to her partner. Initially Gigi laughed off his misguided attempts to straighten her out, but then her dad doubled the dowry in January 2014. After the letter, her dad backed off. There's also a video at the bottom of the page in which Gigi talks about her Evangelical Christian mom struggling to accept her sexuality. South China Morning Post, January 28, 2014.
    • Filipino American Pastor Danny Cortez delivers a sermon on "Why I Changed My Mind On Homosexuality,"at his church, New Heart Community Church, La Miranda, California on February 9, 2014 He tells the story of his journey to acceptance and gives lessons in history and etymologies. It's rare for parents and children to come out at the same time, but Pastor Danny's revelation that he'd changed his mind on homosexuality led his son Drew to come out to him. Read his public statement and more of their story on John Shore's blog. [Please note that although this is a sermon, it's graphic at times. Pastor Danny talks about what was happening during the time period when the Bible was written and how their understanding of same sex sexual behavior was entirely different from ours. If you want to share this with someone you should definitely preview the video in full before sending it.
    • Tim Seelig, artistic director and conductor of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, writes about his past as a straight-married father and Southern Baptist minster, coming out, losing everything, and starting over. The Advocate, July 30, 2014.


    Who doesn't love a good wedding? I had no idea that some people put their wedding videos online until I was poking around YouTube a few weeks ago and came across this:

    • I was also surprised to find an NHK documentary about gay marriage (Part 1, Part 2, panel discussion Part 1, Part 2,). It tells the story of Takashi Nakamura, a Japanese man who married his Dutch partner, Michiel Witkam, in Groningen, The Netherlands, the first country to legalize same-sex marriage. The first time I watched it I was wondering where the English subtitles were since it said in the description that there were subtitles. (Click the "CC" button!) I didn't understand as much the first time I watched it, but I figured that even if you don't understand Japanese or Dutch, you can get something out of it. The way Nakamura-san's eyes crinkle after he says, "Ja, ich will," ("Yes, I will,") at his wedding speaks volumes. The Witkam-Nakamuras also made their own video for Heart School in which they discuss marriage in Japanese & English (subtitles only in Japanese).

    Friday, October 11, 2013

    Part 1: It's National Coming Out Day!

    Volunteering with QAPA
    @ Boston Pride 2012
    Dear Readers,

    Since today is National Coming Out Day, I thought I'd take a page from the MTPC "I Am" project and share with you that not only am I Japanese-Okinawan-American, a lover of noodles & sweets, an avid crafter, and obsessed with purple -- I'm also bisexual.

    You might be wondering, "How is this relevant to a Japanese food & culture blog?" I would imagine that most people who haven't been living under a rock know that the most famous Japanese American actor in history, George Takei, is wonderfully, fabulously gay. He's so gay he once offered for people in Tennessee to use his last name as a synonym for the word 'gay'. When I was looking around for famous LGB Japanese Americans to mention when I came out to my parents, he was the only one I came up with. About a year after it would have been helpful to me, The Huffington Post came out with a list of The Most Influential LGBT Asian Icons. There are 7 Japanese Americans (out of 54) - 5 gay men, 1 lesbian woman, 1 transgender woman, 0 bisexuals. I wasn't surprised, but I was disappointed. In short, LGBT Japanese Americans have a visibility problem. Some people say that sexuality should be private, but that's only something people think when you're not heterosexual. I used to agree that my sexuality was none of anyone's business but by staying silent I contribute to LGBT Asian American invisibility.

    Bisexuals of all colors have an even bigger visibility problem than gays and lesbians. If you're in a relationship with someone of the opposite gender, people assume you're straight and/or you "pass" for straight. If you're in a relationship with someone of the same gender, people assume you're gay. For half my life I chose to mostly pass as straight because I wasn't out to my family and I figured it was just the path of least resistance. There's this old Japanese proverb that translates roughly to, "The nail that sticks out will be hammered down." Once upon a time I wanted kids and at 20, when I first fell in love with a woman, the idea of bucking societal norms, going the sperm donor/in-vitro route, upsetting my Evangelical Christian family and probably getting disowned was just too overwhelming for me to contemplate. So I stuck with my boyfriend and let my parents think I was straight.

    Eventually I got over wanting to procreate, Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, George Takei told the world he's gay (Trekkies already knew), the It Gets Better Project was started, and I began to wonder if I'd had it all wrong. Why was I limiting my serious relationships to men? I can now legally marry anyone in my state and as the years go by, the number of states where I could do that keeps going up (this Gallup poll found that personally knowing someone gay or lesbian seems to make it more likely that a straight person will support gay marriage, which is a strong case for coming out). I decided it was time to stop masquerading as straight.

    Frankly though, I never thought of myself as being "in the closet." I've always been out to my closest friends and occasionally to co-workers. I even came out to a couple of my cousins years ago although we never spoke of it again. I have always been upfront with new partners about my sexuality. Since most of the important people in my day-to-day life knew, I felt like that was out enough for me.

    I found the It Gets Better Project a month after it started when I was still trying to figure out how to come out to my parents. I remember searching for Asians and was disappointed with how few videos there were. Individuals were hard to find but as companies started jumping on the It Gets Better bandwagon, they usually had Asians in their videos, although they didn't always address their Asian-ness. I have to give a shoutout to hanksterchen. I think his might have been the first video I came across that was directed at Christians. It led me to look for other videos addressed to Christians (and Jews, and even one Muslim kid) and what struck me the most was how many of them said basically, "Yeah, my family freaked out at first, but they eventually came around." Sometimes that took years, but it showed me that change was possible and love wins out more often than I'd thought.

    Back then I told friends that I would put money on my parents having a terrible reaction and me possibly being disowned. I'd based this on both vague and specific memories of what I'd been told when I was younger. There were a couple of hints that maybe things were different, but I was still pretty sure that religion would win out over the unconditional love that parents are supposed to have for their children. Thankfully, I was wrong.

    Coming out to my mom was almost a non-event. After all my careful research and planning, instead of sending the letter I thought I'd write with a DVD I'd bought, I ended up blurting it out unceremoniously on the phone one night. She said, "Oh, I thought so." In the top 10 possible reactions my mom could have had, that was nowhere near the list. I think my mom's entire reaction could best be summed up as, "So what?"

    I couldn't have been more shocked. It turns out that the mom I'd been having fights with in my head for years was an imaginary person. I do think that if I'd come out when I figured it out nearly 20 years ago, it would have been a different story, but it turns out my mom has evolved along with much of the rest of America. After a brief bit of confusion in which I tried to get her to tell me how she thought she knew (there really was no answer), my mom spent the rest of the conversation telling me all the LGBT celebrity gossip she knew! (Who knew she knew that Meredith Baxter was a lesbian?!) My mom told my dad and he had a similarly blasé reaction.

    After I came out to my parents, I found myself making different choices. I had already joined QAPA (Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance), but I hadn't gone to any events. About six months after telling my parents, I finally plucked up the courage to start going to events and decided to go to my first ever pride and volunteer at QAPA's booth.

    I'd never been to pride out of an irrational fear of being photographed or recorded and thus being outed to my family. Clearly the chances of this happening were slim, but I figured I had to do everything to minimize them. I also never felt any affinity with the images of pride I saw in the media. I couldn't relate to drag queens, I didn't want to see men in assless chaps, and let's not forget that pride in most parts of the United States is very white. As far as I was concerned, these weren't "my people," so there was no reason to go. I'm also not proud to be bi - I just am bi. Going to a parade that appeared to be about celebrating my sexuality made no sense to me.

    Ah, how naïve I was. I really can't express the freedom and joy I felt at my first pride. It was like nothing I've ever felt before and it was the happiest I'd been in a long time. There was something special about going somewhere public where people wouldn't automatically assume I was straight, where I could celebrate being me - all of me. The importance of pride was finally clear to me.

    The most fascinating thing I learned about myself in the aftermath of coming out to my parents is just how much fear had guided so many of the decisions I'd made for nearly 20 years. Not only had I not gone to pride because I was afraid of being outed:

    • I hadn't applied for interesting jobs with LGBT organizations because I was afraid of being outed.
    • I hadn't engaged in any LGBT activism because I was afraid of being outed.
    • I hadn't come out to some friends and coworkers because I was afraid of what they would think and say about me.
    • I hadn't come out to my extended family because I was afraid of being misunderstood and judged and losing their love.
    • At times I avoided my family because of my growing discomfort with allowing them to think I was straight. 
    • I avoided all popular social networking sites out of fear that my friends' identities and interests might out me to my family.
    • I hadn't allowed myself to have serious relationships with women because I was afraid of being disowned. 
    • I hadn't taken a chance on that woman I fell in love with years ago because I was afraid of society. I wanted to live the heteronormative dream with a husband, 2 kids, a house with a picket fence, and a cat and bunny who were going to be best friends. 
    • Oh, and I refused to embrace rainbows because I thought it was stupid and I didn't feel like I was part of the LGBT community. That and I was afraid it might out me.

    That was when I finally understood that all those years I'd spent thinking I was out enough, I really was in the closet. It was a real shock because I'd always believed (or perhaps just told myself) that I was living a free and open life. After figuring all this out I told myself that my new motto was going to be, "Be brave! Don't let fear guide you." Then I thought about posting this last year, but I chickened out. Baby steps... :)

    One of the ridiculous misconceptions that bisexuals still have to deal with is the fact that we shouldn't be bi because we could "choose" to be straight. We must just be confused. Other people urge us to admit we're really gay because they think we're confused, afraid, or ambivalent about our gay identity. I've never understood why it's so difficult for both gays and straights to understand that being bi is perfectly natural for us. It's true that some gay people struggling with their sexuality will temporarily believe they are bi and plenty of young people experiment before figuring out that no really, they're straight or gay, but for some of us, there's no choosing. That would be like saying I could choose to be only American and not Japanese. I like both Hello Kitty and Tuxedosam. I don't have to pick.

    My sexuality has nothing to do with any traumatic incident in my past, how I was raised (conservative Evangelical Christian for the record), my relationships with either of my parents, or whether I was dropped on my head as a baby. It is simply who I am. What I did choose was to mostly stuff myself into a heteronormative box for years because I was afraid - because I didn't want to be the nail that stuck out. Now I see that was a mistake.

    In the Asian American community we also have the added problem that some parents believe that being gay is a white thing. (Actually, it's not just Asians.) Same-sex attraction isn't new. Barriers to coming out can include a language barrier with our parents and Asian cultural values of maintaining family honor (because being LGBT is seen as shameful), putting the needs of the family/community first by conforming to familial and societal norms and expectations, and the importance of respecting your elders.

    I should stress that all I want to do today is share my story, not dictate what anyone else should do. LGBT people stay in the closet for a variety of reasons. Especially for young people still living at home & college students being supported by their parents, safety, housing, financial dependence, and religion (their family's and/or their own) are all important considerations when thinking about the right time to come out. Even if you're financially independent and living on your own, safety has to be considered. 

    I'll close with a quote I really like from my friend the Rev. Patrick S. Cheng, and a few resources I shared with my extended family when I came out to them. (I'll post a longer list of resources on Monday.)

    "Homophobia is not a family value, it's not a religious value, and it's not an Asian American value. Love is." 


    No Shame! Talking About the Gay/Lesbian/Transgender Japanese American Experience In Hawaii Part 1Part 2, September 12, 2010.

    Equally Speaking, an Equality Hawaii Foundation forum about the people, places, and things affecting Hawaii's LGBT community, Episode 14: Biblical "Clobber" Texts. Aired: July 31, 2011.

    Some documents from Soulforce, a non-profit that works to end religious and political oppression of LGBT people:
    6/4/15: Soulforce updated their website this year and the pdfs no longer appear to be available on their site. I've linked to other sites. Soulforce didn't respond to my inquiry asking if they would be putting them back online.


    If any of my friends who didn't know are reading, I apologize for not speaking with you directly. I probably never told you because it's never come up and I couldn't figure out how to tell you. If you have any questions, please feel free to call or write.

    If you're a reader I don't know and have respectful questions, please feel free to leave a comment. 

    Over the next week there will be some related posts, and then we'll return to your regularly scheduled ramen posts.

    Part 2: LGBT Resources
    Part 3: Well-known LGBT Japanese Americans

    This post has been crossposted at Discover Nikkei, a multi-lingual Nikkei online community. 

    From their website: "Discover Nikkei is a community website about Nikkei identity, history and experiences. The goal of this project is to provide an inviting space for the community to share, explore, and connect with each other through diverse Nikkei experiences, culture, and history." Discover Nikkei is coordinated by the Japanese American National Museum and supported by The Nippon Foundation.

    Tuesday, October 8, 2013

    Boston Asian American Film Festival 5th Anniversary

    This year is the 5th anniversary of the Boston Asian American Film Festival. They have a lot of great films that you should check out, but I'm only going to highlight the ones from Japanese & Japanese American directors/subjects + one Hawaii film. (I apologize if I'm missed any - I just pulled these out based on name and subject matter.) There is one feature, one documentary, and two of their three shorts programs feature two Japanese American historical films (one animated). I'm also highlighting The Haumana, a feature film set in Hawaii, since it's so rare to be able to see Hawaii-made films in Boston. I think hula is one of the most beautiful dance forms. If you've never seen a proper hula performance, you should go see The Haumana.

    Sake-Bomb (New England Premiere)

    Friday, October 25, 2013, 9:15PM
    Bright Family Screening Room @ The Paramount Center, 559 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111
    Directed by Japanese Junya Sakino, Written by Japanese American Jeff Mizushima (interview with Junya Sakino and actors Eugene Kim and Gaku Hamada)
    2013 | 83 mins | Comedy

    A ʻʻSake-Bombʼʼ is a cocktail created by dropping a shot of sake into a pint of beer. It’s also a comedic road movie about a sarcastic Asian American and his Japanese cousin. Sebastian is a bitter, self-deprecating wannabe Internet star from Los Angeles. He has recently been dumped by his girlfriend and on the look-out for someone new. When his cousin Naoto, a naive sake maker from Japan, shows up to find his own ex-girlfriend, Sebastian takes him to north California to find her. They are a clash of cultures waiting to happen. Someone has to break first. Together they meet a colorful group of characters as they come to grips with who they are and the true nature of the girlfriends they are pursuing.

    Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful

    Saturday, October 26, 2013, 3:30PM
    Josiah Quincy School, 885 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111

    Directed by Japanese American Yuriko Gamo Romer (interview)
    2011 | 58 mins | Documentary

    Once in a long while, the life destiny of one woman lines up to make a radical shift for women around the world. In the summer of 2011, Keiko Fukuda broke through a glass ceiling for women when she was awarded the pinnacle of judo, the 10th degree (black belt). Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful is the story of Keiko Fukuda, whose life commitment was to spread judo around the globe. The film offers a thematic exploration of profound shifts in Japanese society and the altered status of women on both sides of the Pacific, with a visual style that honors Fukuda’s motto, which is also the film’s subtitle.

    Rock: Shorts I

    A heartwarming collection of short films by fresh and up-and-coming filmmakers,
    carefully arranged to provoke reflection on family, personal identity, and tragic circumstance.

    Friday, October 25, 2013, 7:00PM

    Tule Lake (trailer)
    Directed by Japanese American Michelle Ikemoto (article)
    2012 | 7 mins | Animation

    Based on true events, “Tule Lake” is a story of perseverance, shown from the perspective of a Japanese American internee during World War II. Held in the Tule Lake segregation camp with her family, a woman steps out of her barracks one winter night...

    Paper: Shorts II

    This lively film program presents a collection of evocative shorts on love and perseverance.

    Saturday, October 26, 2013, 4:30PM

    Lil Tokyo Reporter
    Directed by Chinese American Jeffrey Gee Chin (interview)
    2012 | 30 mins | Historical Drama

    1935 Los Angkeles, community leader Sei Fujii uncovers the corrupt activities of his community's underground mafia. He must choose between saving the face of his deteriorating community and confronting the issues head on through his newspaper. Based on a true story.

    The Haumana (New England Premiere)

    Saturday, October 26, 2013, 2:00PM

    Directed by Keo Woolford (interview)
    2013 | 95 mins | Drama

    When the charismatic host of a cheesy tourist show in Waikiki accepts the challenge of leading a group of high school boys through the demanding discipline required for a traditional hula festival, he becomes as much a student as a teacher when he reconnects with the culture of Hawai`i he previously abandoned.

    Last year I only made it to the shorts but I'm hoping to see a couple of these. I found an unfinished post from last year in which I'd intended to mention a short film directed by Japanese American Matthew Hashiguchi titled People Aren't All Bad. He interviews local ITF tennis playerYutaka Kobayashi, about what it was like being incarcerated by the US government as a teenager. The film was really short (only 4 minutes) but powerful. Photos of Japanese Americans being sent off to camp and racist tableaus were intercut with video of Mr. Kobayashi. When the film ended on the punchline, "People aren't all bad," and the credits started rolling, the audience seemed confused. I wished the film were longer. I was sure Mr. Kobayashi had much more to say.

    In Googling for my post, I discovered that Mr. Kobayashi was also interviewed as part of the UMass Boston's Institute for Asian American Studies' oral history project, From Confinement to College: Video Oral Histories of Japanese American Students During WWII. He does indeed have a lot to say.