Being out, and not.

I recently ran into this line

“I wouldn’t necessarily mind people not knowing I’m gay, but I don’t like being thought of as straight — in the same way that I don’t mind people not knowing I’m a writer, but it would be awkward if they assumed I was an extreme skateboarder, because that’s so far removed from the reality of my life.”

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/advice/a6323/invisible-queer-femme/

It isn’t from the what might be considered the best publication in the world, but it really manages to say something I’ve never quite managed to articulate really well about being gay and coming out. Why does it matter? This is why it matters to many people on an individual level. It’s not about wanting people to know you are gay, it’s about not wanting an assumption that is totally untrue about you placed on you, and the conversations that spawn from those conversations are similarly awkward.

Being asked by co-workers, friends, random strangers “Do you have a girlfriend?” comes from an honest place. A good place, they honestly want to know more about me. But for me, I have quickly have to decide how to approach it.

“No” – Technically true. Lying by omission
“No, I don’t have a boyfriend” – True, explains my position, also comes off as rude given the corrective nature..
“I’m gay” – But they didn’t ask that.

Each time fills me this rush of which answer to pick, and usually it’s a fairly shot no that often has a short sharp sound to it. Even though I usually give the same response, it’s been a struggle since being in Japan, how to approach this. I don’t want to have to come out to people I know, but I don’t want to keep answering the “Do you have a girlfriend” question as I am. Especially when I eventually have a boyfriend. (Which I am optimistic will be a thing that happens while I am employed here) With the local ALTs, well, someone kinda outed me. Which was convenient although I had intended to delay that a little longer than the first week and say it much more casually. Although now we have new ones! So I have to manage that at some point too.

“Coming out” is often billed as a single event. And while yes, that first time or first set of times are usually very important to you, the whole thing is a continuous process. It’s strange, back home, I was out to well, everyone. Heck, I even got paid to come out to other people. Most of the time, I “come out” to people through an off hand joke, reference, or just casually, normally, regale a tale of a past male love. For the longest time, I tried to avoid the classic coming out tale, of telling someone “I am gay.” Even though it is a big part of my own tale.

Here in Japan, I have come out to only one co-worker actually. I tried to make it nice and casual, I gave her a speech I had been working on a contest. She was a smidgen awkward after this. Responded with a “Thanks for telling me.” I haven’t taught with her since, so I can’t comment on how this has impacted that aspect. I’ve had a few other people read the speech with somewhat awkward “nicely written” type responses. I’ve come out directly with one Japanese person here, mostly because I just needed to not have it just be other foreigners who I was out to. She was really cool about it, which was expected. I came out to her after a party where she introduced me to someone at a party of hers who was transgender. So I was playing it pretty safe there.

Coming out isn’t so much of a “I want to tell you my sexuality” and more of “I don’t to be lying by omission since I know what the expectation is.” And that makes it just a strange thing. It’s trying to counter an expectation that you feel it likely but too untrue. Even though the importance of someone knowing your sexuality isn’t important in itself. At time goes on and these things become less assumed, coming out will also be less needed, but right now, and in the culture I am in, it is a strong assumption.

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Year looking forward, 2015-16

So far, for obvious reasons, I’ve been looking backwards not forwards with my posts recently. Time to look more at what I want to accomplish with this second year of JET. Which is something that has been greatly aided by the work done in the year review content. You might notice some kinds of goals you might expect here don’t appear. That’s because I want every single goal here to be specific and simple DID/DIDN’T. So things like “read more in Japanese” “go out more often” aren’t goals that are allowed on this list.

Pass the N3 Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

I had originally opted to not do this by now because I was unsure what my obligations towards life in Japan would look like in that first year, and thus wanted to work slowly towards this goal. Which was great, I appreciated the time I gave myself. But with the end of the musical looming I think it’s time to really knuckle down again and dedicate myself to study, which quite frankly I have been poor with since starting the musical. But this December I am going to do this! The ultimate goal is to end up with N1 by the time I leave, or shortly after, so this really shouldn’t wait much longer.

Attend 4 fighting game tournaments in Niihama.

I know Niihama has an arcade with fighitng game tournaments at least monthly, even playing host to some qualifiers for the Arc Revo Cup last year. I just need to start turning up. Once musical is over I should be able to do this more often. One of the goals I set myself jokingly was to be the best Naoto player in all Shikoku (from Persona 4: The Ultimax Ultra Suplex Hold). And while I had little intention of accomplishing that for real, I did want to get involved with the local gaming scene, particularly fighting games in a very meaningful way. Hopefully after becoming a bit of a regular attendance I can get more involved with local players outside the arcade which is the ultimate goal.

Go to a Dragon Quest X night

So on 9monster there are these ads for what sounds like the best thing. A night of Dragon Quest X (the MMO) with stuff going on, for gay men only. You can find more info http://www.dqxnight.tumblr.com unfortunately the event is limited to Tokyo, making the expense non trivial to say the least. But it just seems so bafflingly unique that I can’t not go. Although I need to actually start the online part of Dragon Quest X…. Unfortunately there isn’t one scheduled when I am in Tokyo next. DQX has a weird popularity that I can’t quite fathom. But many many men on 9monster admit to playing it in their profile, so obviously the community is there.

Hit 3 Yakitate Japan towns

I have a silly silly goal. I want to hit all the towns mentioned in the Yakitate 9 arc of Yakitate Japan and try the respective special ingredients. While hitting all of them might be a bit difficult as they are rather well spread out, I think I should be able to hit at least 3 over the next 12 months, and they as good as any reason to go to all sorts of odd interesting places.

Interview another Japanese developer

This year I had the amazing chance to interview the director of Fantastic Boyfriends. for Gaygamer.net. I had the help of the wonderful Anne Lee for that but I really enjoyed the experience of doing the interview, and really want to improve my interview technique, both written and audio greatly.

So those are a few of the easily quantifiable things I want to accomplish this year. I want to achieve a lot more than just this too. But, those goals aren’t as easy to define.

Medical Exam fun!

It seems pretty customary in Japanese school and business that you have a work provided health check every year. Frankly, this seems like a pretty good plan. What I wasn’t expecting was how it was managed.

I had envisioned a certain scenario, I’d rock up, there would be a line or something, get into the cue however it was managed, and then go see one doctor who would go through everything with me. This was very much not the case. I worked with at least a dozen people I am sure. Every measurement was handled by a different person at a different table. Which frankly is probably the only sensible way to manage such an operation, as they need to examine rather a lot of people on these days.

For the most part I didn’t struggle with language until we got to a past medical conditions section, which we both did a bit of dictionary searching to make sure we were communicating right.

Although, obviously since I am telling you about a part of my life I am either going to be preachy, observant or funny.

Of course, most of the equipment didn’t fit or I was just unlucky to have troubles.

I had to bend my knees and stand in a rather odd position for too long to for the x ray. The blood pressure thing flew off my arm because it was only connected around by a sliver of velcro. I needed 2 stabs for my blood test. When I was all wired up for heart stuff the … sensors(?) kept rolling off. Of course the scales didn’t go high enough to weigh me too (which is a pain. I was really optimistic that I’d finally get a weight reading at this examination.

Most of my troubles were greeted with a nice laugh, usually by the pair of us.

And while it shouldn’t surprise me that it was organised and well managed. It wasn’t what I expected. I get the feeling this these medical examinations would be something Australia could benefit from quite a bit. Although Australian and Japanese people have very different relationships with their work and school environments.

But, just in case anyone is wondering, I am still alive is the general consensus of the tests!

You’ve lost weight!

In a recent musical practice, while me and a smaller group of people were doing a catch up practice of the main dance, our dance instructor said this to me in front of everyone. I’ve been in many awkward situations with questions placed to me in the spotlight before (see, my job) but, this comment just made me feel so uncomfortable, I said thanks and hoped we’d move on, but no, it was a run on set of compliments mostly in regards to a physical body that hadn’t improved.

Worst part, it was probably not to do with weight loss that made me look slimmer, but a combo of a recent haircut and clothes that were a better fit than I usually wear there was the most likely source of this barrage of compliments.

This kind of event to probably something people who don’t get these comments a lot don’t understand, and something many a (preferred adjective describing someone of larger size, usually with implications/association with health) person will relate to.

“You’ve lost weight” is a refrain you’ll hear from a lot of people, usually more often those you don’t get to see as often as you might like. It’s a rather sensible compliment, usually larger people are sensitive about their weight, are making an effort to reduce it, and so someone noticing should be a good boost.

But, what about the times, when you either know haven’t lost weight, or have actually gained weight? Suddenly it stops being so positive. It always comes from a good place, but the problem is when you know it’s wrong it is hard to not also think

“How big do you remember me being?”

Now, I am rather quite large. To the point where I can’t weigh myself on standard scales. I am about one size less than the cap at large clothes shops in Japan, and 2 less than Australia often (in retail I’ve found anyway). There is a good chance I have actually lost weight but not in ways that have effective clothing sizes much.

However, in many senses, facts and compliments don’t really have to match. They just have to match ENOUGH for the recipient to feel good, and then the job is done.

Which I guess is why this post came about. Ultimately, it is a little PSA for this compliment. Don’t not use it, but consider what it says.

If someone has been making an effort and you’ve noticed it, (or even if you haven’t but you are sure they probably lost a little) saying that you’ve lost weight might be the sensible thing to say. But usually a “you look good” or “you look well” implies the positive of “you’ve lost weight” without making it all about weight. This is also preferable to because it lessens the importance of the weight itself  (which is something that get’s overly focused on).

If you say it when either they haven’t being making an effort, or actively are aware they haven’t lost, or have actually gained weight. It comes off as either being unobservant, or having a misinformed memory of the person’s size. And while usually clear it’s not coming from a bad place, can make people feel incredibly uncomfortable.

 

I like to say that I am not sensitive about weight, although frankly that is a little bit of a lie. I usually feel extremely sensitive to the comment you’ve lost weight (much more so than being told I am fat). This probably says more about body image problems than I’d like. But please before using this common phrase or compliment, think about it a little more!