“Gaycation” recap (1.1): Japan

Ellen and Ian head to the Anime district to check out a comic book store with a huge selection of Yaoi Manga, which is basically like m/m slash fanfiction in comic form. It’s cute boys, getting down, for the benefit of a mostly straight, female audience. They are joined on this adventure by LGBT writer Yuki Keiser. Yuki explains that there is still a disconnect between entertainment like this, and acceptance of the real lives of LGBT people in Japan.

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After getting a little hot and bothered at the Manga store, Ellen and Ian meet up with two Yaoi fans, both of whom are straight-identified women. It’s exactly the taboo nature of the gay experience and desire that draws these fans to the genre. In addition to reading the Manga books, these super fans introduce Ellen and Ian to the audiobook version. Things are about to get a little awkward. The foursome head off to a private karaoke room to listen to what is essentially a gay porn on CD. It turns out, awkward and embarrassed is what the fans were going for. It’s the feeling of accidentally stumbling upon two men (or more) engaged in a sexual encounter, that these fans want. In reality, there’s a disconnect between the fans’ actual gay friends and their consumption of Yaoi. Their friends find it borderline offensive, as their own personal lives in Japanese society are very much under wraps.

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From objectification to reality, Ellen and Ian meet up with a duo of gay lawyers and life partners, Kuzuyuki and Masafumi. The couple work on LGBT rights and issues in Tokyo. They talk about how they are often told not to upset with the status quo. It’s very much a don’t ask don’t tell environment. The men are working to slowly but surely working to change Japanese perceptions of the gay community.

Next stop is a train ride away in Kyoto, where our gaycationers visit a hotel that is marketing itself as a destination for same-sex weddings, even though they are not yet legal in the country. Ellen and Ian go through a mock wedding to see what the experience is like, which actually looks really sweet and accepting. Well, that and I just like for people to burst into applause when I enter a room too.

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They then head to a temple where a Zen priest is spearheading these same-sex weddings, legal or not. The temple welcomes all, and the priest talks about how there are no specific teachings against homosexuality in the Zen faith. Ellen and Ian go through a sort of friend-wedding, and exchange sweet vows of lezbroship.

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From the wonderful, accepting feeling at the temple, Ellen and Ian head down a much different path next. They meet up with a closeted gay man, whose identity and voice are disguised for the cameras. Mr. X, as they call him, is engaged in a “friendship marriage” or a marriage of convenience in order to further hide his sexuality. When Ellen asks Mr. X if he would be willing to live more openly if things changed dramatically for the better in Japan, Mr. X hesitates. He doesn’t think he would.