Showing posts with label Gender. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gender. Show all posts

January 8, 2017

The Genderless in Japan

This story appeared on the Sunday New York Times:

[inTOKYO] With the precision of a craftsman painting a ceramic doll, Toman Sasaki blended foundation onto his fine-boned face, shaded the side of his nose with blush and shaped his lip color with a small brush. After 40 minutes of primping in his tiny studio apartment in Tokyo, he peered into a hand mirror and gave himself a nod of approval.
Along with his manicured nails, bobbed hair and high-heeled shoes, the makeup made Mr. Sasaki, 23, appear more typically feminine than male, a striking choice in a society where men and women tend to hew strictly to conventional gender dress codes.
Mr. Sasaki, a model and pop band member who goes simply by Toman, does not regard his look as feminine so much as genderless. As one of a small but growing group of “genderless danshi” — “danshi” means young men in Japanese — he is developing a public identity and a career out of a new androgynous style.
“At heart, I am a man,” said the petite-framed Mr. Sasaki, whose wardrobe of slim-fit tank tops, baggy jackets and skinny jeans evokes the fashion of a preadolescent girl. The concept of gender, he said, “isn’t really necessary.” “People should be able to choose whatever style suits them,” said Mr. Sasaki, who has a large following as Toman on social media and regularly appears on television and radio programs. “It’s not as if men have to do one thing, and women have to do another. I don’t find that very interesting. We’re all human beings.”
Just as some American males have embraced makeup, young Japanese men are bending fashion gender norms, dyeing their hair, inserting colored contacts and wearing brightly colored lipstick.
Men like Ryuji Higa, better known as Ryucheru, his signature blond curls often pulled back in a headband, and Genki Tanaka, known as Genking, who rocks long platinum tresses and often appears in miniskirts, have made a leap from social media stardom to television celebrity.
“It’s about blurring the boundaries that have defined pink and blue masculinity and femininity,” said Jennifer Robertson, a professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan who has researched and written extensively about gender in Japan. “They are trying to increase the scope of what someone with male anatomy can wear.”

Japanese culture has long had a formal tradition of cross-dressing in theater, from classic forms like Kabuki and Noh, where men dress as both men and women, to Takarazuka, where women play both genders.
The unisex look for men has also been popularized in the Japanese cartoon form called anime, and by members of popular boy bands.
The term “genderless danshi” was coined by a talent agent, Takashi Marumoto, who has helped develop Toman’s career. Mr. Marumoto recruits other androgynous men for fashion shows and contracts as potential models, capitalizing on their social media followings to market to fans.
Unlike in the West, where cross-dressing tends to be associated with sexuality, here it is mostly about fashion.
“I think Japanese people react to these men who look quite feminine differently from how people in Euro-American societies react,” said Masafumi Monden, who researches Japanese fashion and culture at the University of Technology Sydney and is on a fellowship at Tokyo University. “In Japan, how people look and their sexual identities can be separated to a certain extent.”
Toman Sasaki said that when he first began dressing in the genderless danshi fashion, people frequently asked him whether he was gay. (He says he is heterosexual.)
He said that he wore makeup to conceal his flaws. “There are many things I’m insecure about; I really don’t like my face,” he said. “But I also feel that who I am changes when I wear makeup.”
Several men who consider themselves genderless danshi said in interviews that they did not see a connection between their appearance and their sexual identities — or even their views on traditional gender roles.
“It’s just that you use makeup and dress how you want,” said Takuya Kitajima, 18. Mr. Kitajima, who goes by the name Takubo, said he believed men and women were fundamentally different in spite of any blurring of style distinctions. “I think men should protect women, and that principle won’t change,” he said. “Men are stronger than women, and a man should work because the women are weaker.”

But Yasu Suzuki, 22, who organizes events for other genderless danshi to meet with their social media fans, said his explorations in fashion have broadened his views on sexuality.
When he began to experiment with makeup as a teenager, he said, he sometimes attracted the romantic attention of other men. “I thought that I would want to throw up when a man said to me, ‘I love you,’” said Mr. Suzuki, who wears baggy trousers popular among Japanese women and tweezes his facial hair because he cannot yet afford the laser hair removal treatments popular among the better-known genderless danshi.
“But now that I began wearing this genderless fashion, I think I shed my prejudice,” he said. “Before, I didn’t like boys or men who love each other, but I have started to accept them. Beautiful people are just beautiful.”
In Japan, where a walk through a train station during the commuter rush highlights the dark-suited conformity of most males, young men disillusioned by corporate stagnation may be using fashion to challenge the social order.
“In my generation, women were jealous of men because they could work and do whatever they wanted,” said Junko Mitsuhashi, 61, a professor of gender studies at Chuo University and a transgender woman. “But in the younger generation, men are jealous of women because they can express themselves through fashion.”
She added, “Men feel like they don’t have a sphere in which they can express themselves, and they envy girls, because girls can express themselves through their appearance.”
Young girls are the most ardent fans of the genderless danshi, making up the bulk of their social media followers and showing up at events.
On an autumn night when Toman performed with his band, XOX (Kiss Hug Kiss), at a hipster clothing store in Harajuku, the center of Tokyo youth fashion, the audience was made up almost entirely of teenage girls and a few 20-something women.
Toman, dressed in a satin pink and leopard skin-print jacket, ripped black jeans and faded black and white Converse sneakers, had inserted gray contact lenses that made his eyes look huge beneath purple-tipped false eyelashes. When the band mounted the makeshift stage for a few songs — all performed slightly out of tune — the audience waved signs and screamed. Some girls cried.
Nagisa Fujiwara, 16, a high school sophomore in Tokyo, was one of about 200 girls who lined up after the brief concert to take selfies with the band. “He looks like a girl,” she said about Toman, her favorite. “But when you put that together with his maleness, I see him as a new kind of man.”
Makiko Inoue contributed research.
A version of this article appears in print on January 6, 2017, on Page A4 of the New York edition with the headline


Toman Sasaki, a so-called genderless dans hi, at a Japanese shopping mall 

where he performed with his band, XOX, late last year. CreditKo Sasaki for The New York Times 

Sea of Japan
East Sea
Pacific Ocean
300 Miles


November 13, 2013

Bangladesh Govm’t Moves to Recognize ‘hijira’ a 3rd Gender

Bangladesh's prime minister announced at a Nov 11 Cabinet meeting that hijras will recognized as a separate gender identity, the Dhaka Tribune reports.
The move will reportedly clear the way for hijras, many of whom do not identify as male or female, to make changes in official documents like passports that more accurately reflect their identity, Pink News reports. Cabinet Secretary Muhammed Musharaff Hossain Bhuiyan says the term hijra will be used as other translations or references would be misleading, the report says.
The Cabinet Secretary indicated there are 10,000 hijras in Bangladesh, noting that they often face discrimination in the areas of housing, education and health. Others say the number of hijras is much higher, anywhere up to 150,000.
Gay Star News quotes activist Omar Kuddus as saying that the specific identification of hijras as envisioned in the new policy could set them up to be targeted for persecution. 
In September, Bangladesh rejected a United Nations recommendation to decriminalize same-sex relationships.

May 29, 2011

Storm Brews Around No Gender Child


The decision of Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, to raise their child Storm as genderless has caused quite a stir across the nation.
The Toronto couple’s lifestyle is not unusual and is one that many of us in the queer community can relate to.
Both parents come from liberal households where gender identity was fluid — Witterick’s brother experimented with drag as a teen in the ’80s. They have travelled extensively through Mexico and most recently spent a year in Cuba.
Both have worked in social justice organizations — Witterick in violence prevention before becoming a full-time mother. Stocker teaches at a tiny school with four teachers and about 60 students whose lessons are framed by social-justice issues.
The couple lives in a nice home in a city neighbourhood with their three children: Jazz, five, Kio, two, and Storm, four months. Both Jazz and Kio are un-schooled at home, choose their own clothes (Jazz likes dresses) and sleep with their mother and father every night on a big, comfortable mattress on the floor.
Sounds to me that they are a loving family.
However, their latest parenting decision not to declare the gender of Storm has unleashed a barrage of criticism from people around the country after their story was published in the Toronto Star.
When Storm was born they sent out an unconventional birth announcement: “We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place?).”
The announcement was apparently met with stony silence, but the newspaper article has been met with criticism, complaints and outrage.
Of course Fox News has picked up the story, contacted pro-family organizations and come to the conclusion it always does — that Storm will grow up terribly confused about sexual identity.

May 27, 2011

Toronto: Couple keep baby's Sex Secret

David Stocker and Storm                                                 

A Toronto couple are defending their decision to keep their infant's sex a secret in order to allow the child to develop his or her own gender identity.
Kathy Witterick and David Stocker have been widely criticised for imposing their ideology on four-month-old Storm.
The family were the subject of a recent profile in the Toronto Star newspaper.
In an e-mail, Ms Witterick wrote that the idea that "the whole world must know what is between the baby's legs is unhealthy, unsafe, and voyeuristic".
Ms Witterick, 38, and Mr Stocker, 39, have also been criticised for the manner in which they are raising their two sons Jazz, five, and Kio, two.
The boys are encouraged to choose their own clothing and hairstyles - even if that means wearing girls' clothes - and to challenge gender norms. Jazz wears his hair in long braids, and the boys are "almost exclusively assumed to be girls," Mr Stocker told the Toronto Star.
The child's grandparents do not know Storm's sex, the Toronto Star reported, and have grown weary of explaining the situation, but are supportive.
In an e-mail to the Associated Press news agency, Ms Witterick, a stay-at-home mother, said a four-month-old infant was still learning to recognise him or herself, and said it was inappropriate to impose a gender identity on the child.

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