I’ve been living here in Kyoto for around seven months now and so far, I’ve only seen one rainbow flag proudly displayed along the quiet streets of Kyoto. I discovered Colori Caffe , an Italian restaurant owned by Yossy, an openly lesbian Japanese woman. Aside from serving Italian cuisines and good coffee, Colori is also a place where everyone can be themselves. It’s one of the few, or possibly the only place in Kyoto that openly supports LGBTs – lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals.
I was happy to discover Colori, but at the same time, I was also quite surprised to find this café in a relatively conservative place such as Kyoto, Japan. I asked Yossy if all of her customers know what the rainbow flag in front of the café symbolizes, sadly, nearly half of them aren’t even aware of its meaning.
The rainbow flag symbolizes the LGBT pride; it also represents the diversity within the LGBT community. It’s often used in pride movements pushing forward LGBT rights, and yet a lot of people have no idea what it represents – most people would perhaps think of it as a symbol of peace – which it really is, but often times, its eminent message is left forgotten, drowned by its own bright colors.
Perhaps the biggest predicament is that a lot of people are still unaware of LGBT issues, if not, then they are simply indifferent. Or worse, they are heavily misinformed; hence they tend to misconstrue the issue. This problem can be traced back to the fact that most people don’t have a clear understanding of gender, primarily because gender itself is a socially constructed concept in which dominant norms have forced itself onto everyone. Hence giving birth to discrimination and prejudice against the LGBT community. This problem is not confined to Japan, but can be observed all over the world.
Most of us, as early as childhood, were probably already exposed to the dire distinctions between men and women. We were told that girls and boys should act in certain ways; otherwise, we are disturbing the imagined code of gender roles that society has imposed upon us. We live in a world which follows a strict gender binary: men are like this and women are like that. Men are supposed to be attracted to women, and women to men. But what about same-sex couples? Some would deny their existence, hence placing the issue as a taboo. While others would openly denounce same-sex couples as an “abomination,” a moral disgrace, a social deviance. This problematic outlook towards the LGBT community may be a product of a homogenized way of thinking regarding human sexuality. This homogenization of the concept of gender has been manifested through dominant teaching practices, the popular media, and through social norms.
Most societies today maintain a highly heteronormative nature – the representation of heterosexuality as the norm, and the denouncement of homosexuality as an unacceptable social deviation – this puts the LGBT community on a detrimental position. On top of that, most societies also maintain a strong patriarchal nature, hence putting lesbian and bisexual women in an even more difficult and oppressed position within society.
For decades, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals have fallen as victims of social stigma, unfair treatment, and harsh stereotypes. Myriad societies continue to look down on LGBTs, hence affecting their lives on multiple levels – socially, economically, politically, and even emotionally and psychologically.
by Fritzie Rodriquez
I find it quite interesting that Japanese society does not really accept homosexuality, and yet, a lot of popular comedians in Japan are now claiming that they are gay or transgender individuals. Looking at them on T.V, I feel like maybe, the Japanese people are becoming more aware of LGBTs. On the other hand, I also feel like these comedians could have a negative image of LGBTs by the fact that these comedians are “selling” their identity of LGBT in order to make audiences laugh.
The pressure of “must be like everyone else” idea in the Japanese society make it difficult for the LGBTs to accept and show their identity. I think the Japanese collectivistic society has made LGBTs more difficult to fit in the society, and this idea of collectivistic society has made many of the Japanese people ignorant, not only about LGBTs but being unique in general.
I was surprised to know that there is the cafe which has understanding to LGBT in Kyoto, Japan. I have some friends who are bisexual, but they try to hide that fact. They understand it is kind a taboo and even unusual here. And as the author mentioned in this post, the meaning of rainbow is not poplar in Japan. I did not know either until I studies in the U.S. I have seen many LGBT are treated with respect in the U.S. and it surprised me a lot. I finally realized Japan has been severe for LGBT to live. I wish someday they can be proud of themselves and this cafe can be the beginning.