Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Volume 8, Number 4, 2007

Associative identity politics: unmasking the multi-layered formation of queer male selves in 1990s Japan
Katsuhiko SUGANUMA
k.suganuma@pgrad.unimelb.edu.au KatsuhikoSuganuma 0 4 800000December 2007 & Francis Original Article Studies 1464-9373 (print)/1469-8447 Inter-AsiaFrancis 2007 10.1080/14649370701567955(online) RIAC_A_256652.sgm Taylor andCultural Ltd

ABSTRACT

This paper discusses one way to articulate queer male identity politics in 1990s Japan through Fran Martin’s conceptualization of the ‘mask’ (Martin 2003). By comparatively examining two key Japanese ‘gay’ coming-out narratives, the paper shows how a reading of queer subject formation in the decade through a metaphor of ‘masking’ can shed light on the complex scenarios functioning beneath the surface of identity politics. I argue that the notion of ‘masking’ is useful in reading the multiple axes incorporated into queer identity formation in Japan in the context of globalization. The paper further refutes any reductive claim that queer identity in Japan can be understood in terms of essentialist epistemological binaries, such as global/local, West/non-West, and Japan/abroad.

KEYWORDS: Queer, gay, Japan, mask, identity, gender, sexuality, globalization, Asia, Orientalism

Introduction The last decade has seen the emergence of the field of Asian Queer Studies. This area of scholarship owes much of its analytical paradigm to preceding as well as contemporaneously evolving disciplines such as post-colonial feminism, post-structuralism, and globalization studies, with particular critical attention being given to cultural imperialism, ethnocentrism and orientalism. In the case of post-war and contemporary Japanese queer1 male culture, several scholars have conducted key research employing cross-cultural perspectives (Lunsing 1999, 2001; McLelland 2000a, 2000b, 2003a, 2003b, 2005; Vincent et al. 1997). In his discussion of Asian queer cultures in the context of globalization, Peter Jackson, drawing on Arjun Appadurai’s critique of homogenization theory, insists that globalization ‘needs to be understood as the operation of common processes in diverse locales, inciting semi-independent and parallel developments in these different places. In other words, gay and other new identities may have multiple origins in a globalizing world’ (Jackson 2001: 14). Jackson proposes that there is a need for us to come up with effective theoretical tools to decipher Asian queer cultures of ‘multiple’ associations, as ‘no current formulation of the history of eroticism – whether based on Foucauldian or globalization analyses – is adequate to the task of explaining the global proliferation of gender/sex diversity’ (Jackson 2001: 14– 15). Commenting on the process of ‘hybridization’ of these cultures, Chris Berry also contends that Asian queer cultures ‘should not be understood as setting up a fixed and naturalized Asian gay identity versus a Western gay identity. Instead, a subtle conceptual framework is required to accommodate these multivalent and sometimes contradictory articulations’ (Berry 2001: 212). The answer to such a critical inquiry is of course not ready-made. To give a comprehensive treatment to it is no doubt beyond the scope of this paper. Instead, this paper discusses one possible strategy which might be called up when tackling this critical inquiry, namely the applicability of the epistemology of Fran Martin’s ‘masking’ trope as a means to
ISSN 1464–9373 Print/ISSN 1469–8447 Online/07/040485–18 © 2007 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/14649370701567955

Martin draws a certain socio-semantic parallel between a ‘mask’ and a ‘face’ (lian). lian. ‘Layering’ identity formation through ‘masking’ In the chapter titled ‘The Closet. The discussion will suggest how such an analysis can provide one possible element in the yet-to-be theorized aspects in the emerging field of Asian Queer Studies. Martin argues that ‘the tense and particular relationship that homosexuality bears to the thematics of knowledge/ignorance and secrecy/disclosure. the latter Mandarin word. In this respect. and Michel Foucault’s analysis of sexuality and knowledge in Europe. Martin perceives this ‘masking’ effect of ‘coming out’ applicable to the context of the 1990s Taiwanese society that not explicitly but implicitly differs from the Euro-American presumption of ‘sexual subjectivity as an interior knowledge’ (Martin 2003: 194). Martin also attests to the relevance of masking as metaphorical tactic in the process of homosexual identity formation in 1990s Taiwan. with unpredictable mutations. is at the same time the paradigmatic sign of its continuing concealment. as the sign used to disclose that identity. Fran Martin develops an analysis on the ‘mask’ in understanding subject formations of Taiwanese homosexual (tongzhi) identities in the 1990s (Martin 2003). By this she is implying that in the formation of sexual knowledge in the West. reluctant to apply this paradigm of ‘coming out’ to the context of homosexual-oriented activisms and cultures in 1990s Taiwan. Martin demonstrates the applicability of such a tactic to the social circumstances of Taiwan’s sexual minorities at that time. (Martin 2003: 193) To elaborate further on the aptness of the notion of masking in the Taiwanese context. While acknowledging this possibility. Rather than operating to exclude or include. She is. then. as is the case with the ‘in/out’ trope. in effect. Martin writes. therefore. the Mask and “The Membranes”’ in her Situating Sexualities. Instead Martin finds the metaphorical as well as literal trope of ‘masking’ more pervasive in the Taiwanese context. The voluntary donning of masks by Taiwan’s gay men and lesbians in public seems more than anything else. Referring to studies such as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Epistemology of the Closet (1990). One might argue that the metaphoric use of the ‘mask’ to blur Taiwanese homosexuals subject(s) can simply be read as a strategic safeguard of privacy against homophobic public surveillance. Examining both the political and rhetorical significations of the masking tactics employed by some homosexual groups and activists. the concept of ‘coming-out of the closet’ has been a central trope for the revelation of non-normative sexual orientation. the notion of a ‘closet’ has been complicit in situating a concept of homosexuality as ‘secrecy’ to be ‘exposed’: a rhetorical binary of ‘in/ out’. because the mask. to dramatize the very workings of the tongzhi mask. which condenses in the figure of the closet. which installs tongxinglian [homosexuality] in just such an undecidable position in relation to visibility and knowledge.486 Katsuhiko Suganuma read queer male subject formation in 1990s Japan (Martin 2003). functions as an ambiguous . In post-stonewall Euro-American discourse of the gay and lesbian liberation movement. thereby making the binary of ‘in/out’ or ‘homosexual/heterosexual’ less pertinent. whilst the currency of the narrative has been appropriated in other societies. This is not necessarily because she is inclined to make an essentialist distinction between Taiwan’s homosexual culture and that of the West. The mask tactic generates an unsettling alternating current between the yin [hidden] and the xian [shown] that effectively reproduces the social workings of the idea of the homosexual mask. in the last few decades. the ‘masking’ tactic. is a culturally specific one’ (Martin 2003: 196). electrifying the boundary between showing and not showing the secret of the individual’s tongzhi identity. She argues that like the ‘mask’. camouflages the subject(s) beneath the ‘mask’. but rather because such ‘in/out’ dualistic nature could not be explicitly observed in the Taiwanese ‘coming-out’ movements she examined.

she argues that ‘the mask reinflects the preoccupations of the closet away from private/public and towards shame/status. as it were. Martin analyzes not only activist groups but also contemporaneous literary texts. Compared with the notion of the gay or lesbian identity as a ‘true-self’ being disclosed from a closet. a disruptive moment. the tactical deployment of masking systematically invites the participation of the mask’s audience. the ‘fallen face’ with eyes down and head averted … are semaphores of trouble and at the same time of a desire to reconstitute the interpersonal bridge. Martin takes her analysis further when she asks: if the rhetorical function of the ‘mask’ frustrates the essentialist readings of gay or lesbian identity formation. then does it have a similar effect on reception? In other words. Sedgwick argues that: Shame floods into being as a moment. one could argue Martin is not attesting to the ‘playful’ nature of the ‘masking’ tactic which might allow sexual minorities to shift their countenance on the mask at free will. both of which draw on a narrative of masking with regard to the revelation of sexual identity. and away from enclosure/exposure and towards social enactment’ (Martin 2003: 203). neither does she imply that the tactic of masking affords sexual minorities any greater degree of fluidity than the trope of the closet in terms of their identity formation. In other words. What Martin does find more significant. what initiates intimate integrations between the masking subjectivities and their audience. Rather they hover around the surface of the mask almost like a haunting illumination. in my view at least. This almost theatrical effect of masking is. Instead of pro-actively revealing the ‘inner-true-self’ out of a ‘closet’. Martin reiterates that she has no intention to essentialize any stark contrast between the two concepts (Martin 2003: 203). In theorizing the metaphoric trope of a ‘mask’ in relation to that of a ‘closet’ within a narrative of ‘coming out’. In other words. Martin’s wording of ‘shame’ here is derived from Sedgwick’s application of Michael Franz Basch’s and Silvan Tomkins’s interpretation of shame. and Chi Ta-wei’s 1995 novella The Membranes (Mo). the rhetorical masking tactic used in 1990s Taiwan was accompanied by an interesting audience response. how would such an ‘unreadable’ subject look to the gaze of the hetero-normative society? (Martin 2003: 204). if not distinct from the closet. Thus. like a stigma. At the same time these ‘negative’ or ‘shameful’ perceptions are not necessarily attached to the individual self of homosexual wearer. to engage in reconfiguring the surfaces of the ‘mask’. is the process by means of which viewing the ‘masked homosexual face’ inevitably and intimately draws the audience into its politics. ‘injured’. That is. This is where Martin finds the mask tactic so unique. and ‘negative’ images associated with the use of the mask. (Cited in Martin 2003: 242) In Situating Sexualities. the ‘lian indexes a subject’s basic social acceptability: It is a measure of the extent to which a subject can be countenanced. In so doing. Moreover. as I read Martin. Indeed. in a circuit of identity-constituting identificatory communication. These include Qiu Miaojin’s 1994 fictional novel The Crocodile’s Journal. Blazons of shame. the masking tactic resulted in the manifestation of a multi-layered ‘elusive subject’. the notion of ‘face’ (lian) is intimately related to the social setting within which it functions. In those texts Martin observes a certain consistency of ‘dark’. masking demands that the spectators deal with the ambiguity of making sense of the unreadable subject of the mask. such disastrous imageries are not signifying the characteristics of homosexual individuals.Associative identity politics 487 and flexible avatar that engages in various ‘showing’ even while continuously ‘concealing’ the subject(s) of people’s social identities within contemporary Taiwan. in fact. to use Martin’s expression. shame is itself a form of communication. . the act of masking provides a more intimate space for both wearer and viewer. According to Martin. by members of Taiwan’s homosexual community. In this consistency. by the social collectivity’ (Martin 2003: 197–198). reflecting instead the social situations surrounding them.

it is worthwhile to explain briefly the applicability of the masking trope to the context of Japanese post-war queer male culture. I find it useful to apply the theoretical concept of a masking through which the topology of the complexity can be elucidated in a more amplified manner. In the following section of the paper I will borrow Martin’s theorization of the mask and apply this to a reading of the identity formations of 1990s Japanese queer male culture. based upon an orientalist differentiation of Japanese society from that of the West. many activists from different factions brought this issue into the public arena. will you not instead indulge and love me?’ (Martin 2003: 245) Martin’s theorization of the masking trope of ‘coming-out’ acts in Taiwanese homosexual culture helps us to delve into several liminal effects of the metaphorical tactic. ‘See how secretly evil the system is: Join with me to overthrow it!’ than it seems to say. as well as facilitating the intimate association between subject/s and the audience.488 Katsuhiko Suganuma Applying Sedgwick’s interpretation of ‘shame’ referred to above as an essence of communication in the masking tactics of Taiwanese sexual minorities. addressing the viewer: ‘It is you who allow me no face’. By using a masking hermeneutic to examine two representative but seemingly conflicting ‘coming out’ narratives from the 1990s. The impulse in the particular tongzhi representations I am referring to seems less to say. in particular those of multi-layering and camouflaging queer subject formation. Martin argues: The assertive. Furthermore. In understanding such complexity. these strategies reverse the shaming gaze of the public articulating what amounts to an accusation of the injurious intent and consequence of the heterosexist. While Martin astutely elucidates the liminal local dialogues between sexual minorities and the hetero-normative audience in Taiwan by virtue of understanding the effects of the masking tactic. (Martin 2003: 201) Instead of accusing the heterosexist social norm in a unilateral or oppositional manner. However. ‘See how the collectivity with which you are complicit has injured me: Now. the processes she identifies. instead of injuring me further. the mask tactic makes the accusation with the intent of reconciliation. I also extend the discussion to the intra-local dialogues among sexual minorities themselves in the Japanese context. Japanese queer male minorities went through a critical period in terms of developing an identity politics. in what follows. Through the release of numerous publications and through engaging in political activism concerning the social status of queer minorities. Martin’s work referenced here certainly resists reductionist or positivist approaches to the understanding of the queer culture of Taiwan. Locations of Japanese queer activism in the 1990s: a reading through ‘masks’ In the decade of the 1990s. I acknowledge that any attempts to read Japanese society’s peculiar post-modernity in relation to that of the West always entail the danger of glorifying ‘the . I will show both collaborate in constituting Japanese queer male culture of the time. I am by no means suggesting that Japanese queer culture in that decade can be better understood employing the masking trope as opposed to that of the closet. willful self-masking of the tongzhi and the sex workers … takes the accusation of bu yao lian [‘not wanting face’] and directs it ironically back toward its point of origin. familialist gaze. are not only useful in understanding Taiwan. Effectively. Before moving to the analysis of the first ‘coming-out’ narrative. providing a useful alternative to the burden of being submerged beneath a master narrative of ‘coming-out of the closet’. They virtually apply to the complexity of every queer culture’s identity politics. the critical authoritative spectator. In fact. Martin phrases this subtle yet important difference into the following words.

In a discussion of the indexicality as a semiotic criterion of identity. not by concealing the face. and as the surest protection from the desire of the Other’ (Miyoshi and Harootunian 1989: xv–xvi). General scholarly fascination with mask cultures in Japan is nothing new. referring to Anthony Seeger. Pollock suggests that ‘we treat the objects conventionally called “masks” as only one of a variety of semiotic systems that are related through their conventional use in disguising. but by concealing the eyes’ (Pollock 1995: 585). Wim Lunsing. Pollock shows a couple of instances where ‘the primary conventional medium for indexing identity’ varies depending upon cultural context (Pollock 1995: 591). my focus is the metaphorical social countenance of the Japanese queer male mask through which queer identity is construed. Thus. as identity is understood in any particular cultural context’ (Pollock 1995: 581–582). Adding to a mask’s effect when used as a plastic object. my focus lies not on the notion of masking as the actual act of donning and then wearing the mask in the traditional theater cultures or religious festivals. this section simply points to several elements of Japanese queer male culture that are pertinent to a masking analysis. he assumes that in western society the eyes are often considered to be the main indexing site for identity that ‘seeing is believing: look someone in the eyes to gauge their honesty or true worth. Expanding the notion of the mask from ‘representational media’ to one of ‘semiotic media’. ‘verbal performance is the primary conventional medium for indexing identity among Kulina. which serves the function of masking. verbal performance is also. Pollock’s attempt to draw our attention not only to the representation of masks but also precisely to the semiotic mechanism of the mask in terms of its ‘iconicity’ and ‘indexicality’ is a useful tool to help us grasp an extended understanding or application of the notion of masking. My application of the masking trope to the Japanese queer male culture draws upon a semiotic reading inspired by Pollock’s argument. In order to concretize my point further. the masking function can be applicable. Lunsing 1999. transforming or displaying identity. Murakami Takanori and Ishida Hitoshi and others show that in postwar Japan. The minimal Western mask works. as implied above in relation to Martin’s work. I think that the hermeneutic of masking in the discussion of queer subject formation can be applied to virtually any society within their own historical contexts. McLelland 2005. I am not talking about visual masking. queer male culture has always existed in various social sites (Fushimi 2002. The Japanese culture of masks or masking has often been used as a locus of analyses of processes of Japanese identity transformation. Pollock indicates multiple ways in which we can apply the notion of masking to social identity. For instance. On the other hand. Instead my discussion is primarily centered on its metaphorical social discourse. I also would like to clarify that I do not wish to claim that the masking trope is specifically apposite to the context of Japanese queer male culture more than any other societies. … [M]asks therefore “work” by coordinating the iconicity and indexicality of signs of identity. However. In short. in the Kulina Indian culture in western Amazonia. Those studies range from a relatively simplistic as well as orientalist reading of Japanese mask culture by James McCormick (1956) to the more nuanced investigation conducted by Klaus-Peter Köpping (2005) which incorporates recent accounts of anthropological and social psychological theoretical developments on masking. Pollock argues that instead of a visual indexication of identity. the appropriate channel for the indexing of transformed identity’ (Pollock 1995: 591). it is useful to draw on a semiotic reading of masking by Donald Pollock (1995). Fushimi Noriaki. particularly from anthropological as well as art and theater studies’ points of view. In such culture “seeing” is equated with “understanding”.Associative identity politics 489 very terms of cultural exceptionalism (Nihonjinron) [the theory of the Japanese] … as a form of defensive reaction to distinguish Japan from the West. in semiotic terms. Indeed. Mark McLelland. Murakami and Ishida . Thus. In talking of masks in regard to Japanese queer male identity. Instead. in a semiotic sense. to any medium through which identity transformation has taken place.

A range of media including magazines. this does not denote that hetero-normative society has been tolerant of postwar queer culture. These appropriations have nonetheless been given twists and turns so that they both conform to and constitute stereotyped imageries created and captured by the gaze of hetero-normative mainstream audience. As shown in some detail by Murakami and Ishida’s work on queer representations in the Japanese printed media from the 1950s onward. and comics. … Mishima Yukio is someone who attempts to make paradox non-paradoxical by rendering himself a paradoxical being. It is clear that. Moreover. ordinary man with artistic talent. Fukuda Tsuneari observes that Mishima was ‘like an innocent-seeming demon. Although such effects of the social phenomenon cannot be denied. was one factor facilitating the rapid development of queer movements and identity politics in the 1990s. In other words. although heterosexual female audiences appropriated a positive image of queer males. which positioned queer as something to be exploited or ‘masked’ metaphorically and discursively by the mainstream audience. Mishima Yukio. Rather. one cannot describe Japanese queer culture as ‘invisible’. a moral panic instigated by the fear of AIDS pandemic also relegated Japanese queer culture. The critic Asada Akira argues that Mishima’s homoerotic writings deliberately used the masked representation of queer culture in a way that exceptionally dramatized the socially occluded world of that culture (Asada and Vincent 1998: 137).2 the ‘gay boom’ arose from the trope or imagery of Japanese queer male culture being manipulated by the hands of people outside the culture. it is more precise to state that Japanese queer male culture has been made consistently visible in a curious fashion to the gaze of the mainstream Japanese public. is another instance where the Japanese society has dealt with the queer male culture through a trope of the mask. [he]… . to titillate their voyeuristic curiosity. However. of which he was very self-consciously aware. created another social platform. his almost theatrical drawing of his own masked world in relation to the Japanese general public’s perception of him. primarily targeting the heterosexual female audience. we can nevertheless simultaneously identify an enduring pattern in the relationship between Japanese queer culture and the audience. In this regard. Commenting on this in a review of Confessions of a Mask. especially that of the male. and swindler with imitations. the rapid mobilization of queer identity politics in 1990s Japan was not triggered by any random coincidence. TV shows. this image functioned as a consolation for those women who loathed patriarchal Japanese sexism. the male queers whose images were appropriated remained confined within the parameters of compulsory hetero-normativity (Hirano 1994: 23–30). instead it was premised upon the historicity and social environment pertinent to the voyeuristic relationship between queer culture and the audience throughout the post-war era. gay writer Hirano Hiroaki argues that. From his 1949 famous auto-biographical novel Confessions of a Mask (Kamen no kokuhaku) to his notorious and performative suicide in 1970. to the situation of ‘being looked at’ toward the beginning of the decade. as was the case in pre-1990s post-war decades in Japan. Although the perspective is different. queer male representations have always been ‘appropriated’ into the mass media. Besides the rise of this ostensibly ‘queer-friendly’ mainstream audience fascination. Attempts by Japanese government authorities to demonize queer male culture by conflating it with the negative imagery of the epidemic (Kazama 2003). Such social events put tremendous pressure on queer communities themselves to enact their own subjectivities.490 Katsuhiko Suganuma 2006). childish adult. This mainstream gaze grounded in curiosity reached its pinnacle in the early 1990s with the occurrence in the Japanese media of what is now called a ‘gay boom’ (McLelland 2000a: 32–37). One may argue that this ‘gay boom’. As a result. were complicit in enthusiastically idealizing the trope of ‘gay men as best friends’. a similar masking of the queer male culture is also salient in the work of the Japanese literary master. in so much as it fostered social visibility. Given the rich existence of queer culture in society.

as well as facilitate a new dialogue with the audience through which to reconfigure both preceding queer male representations and the stereotypes operating against them. The lawsuit was mounted when OCCUR members who had disclosed their sexual orientation were denied their rights to use Fuchu Seinen no Ie. OCCUR turned their efforts to debunking cultural myths as well as to enacting a form of sexual identity untainted by the public gaze. the activist group OCCUR (Japan Association for the Lesbian & Gay Movement) was one of the active participants in Japanese queer male identity politics. Following a ¯ disagreement over the political stance adopted by Minami. it is likely that any new form of self-proclaimed enactment of queer male subjectivity in 1990s Japan had to be contrasted with some pre-existing masking imagery already understood by the audience. by subjecting two key queer male ‘coming-out’ narratives to the masking analysis. 1997: 124–127). the Kojien. The group also criticized the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare for their rejection of blood donations from male homosexuals as well as for government attempts to demonize male homosexuality alleging it to be the cause of the AIDS epidemic (OCCUR 1993a. In the following sections. Vincent et al. and their public presence in Japanese mainstream media helped reconfigure the social imagery of gay individuals (Murakami and Ishida 2006: 539–540). OCCUR played a significant role in illuminating the discourse of Japanese queer male culture in the decade. especially in western developed nations in the post-Stonewall era. In other words. Most of these strategies had been used in other countries. Political campaigns undertaken included a protest against the ¯ choice of word for ‘homosexuality’ in the authoritative Japanese dictionary.Associative identity politics 491 is keenly aware of his positionality as such. As Ishida and Murakami observe. the younger generation decided to create their own political group. As these instances illustrate. OCCUR was the most influential gay activist group. OCCUR was established in 1986 among younger members who diverged from the preceding gay activist group JILGA (Japanese International Lesbian and Gay Association) led by Minami Teishiro since 1984. Kazama 2003. and petitioning Amnesty International to include the rights of homosexuals in their guidelines protecting innocent prisoners. which resulted in the formation of OCCUR (Minami 1996: 175. and plays it out in his novel with full calculation’ (Fukuda 1949: 238). This logic precluded allowing any group of homosexual men to stay in the same room (OCCUR 1996: oa m [r ]c oa m []r c . Lunsing 1999: 304).3 Through their numerous publications and political activism. a youth hostel operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan government. the fundamental strategy employed by OCCUR was directly targeting state and cultural authorities in order to bring about changes in the public’s perception toward homosexuals. Thus it comes as no surprise that Dennis Altman perceived OCCUR’s strategy for homosexual liberation as ‘the best example of western-style political activism’ proliferated in other parts of the world (Altman 1997: 432). In the cultural turmoil which saw socially biased perceptions of Japanese male queers proliferating through the media. Considering the historical and contemporary references above. ‘Imported’ mask and its frustration effect In the decade of the 1990s. the queer male subjectivity processes needed to ‘repaint’ the mask. I will elucidate how such a masking reading of Japanese queer male identity formation can shed light on the multi-tiered construction of it/them. This way of understanding OCCUR’s activism might have been further confirmed when the group was involved in the lawsuit against the Tokyo Metropolitan government demanding the legal recognition of equal rights for homosexual citizens from 1991 to 1997 (Suganuma 2004). The government insisted that their refusal of OCCUR’s use of the hostel was valid on the grounds that the hostel had an administrational rule strictly prohibiting users of the opposite sex to stay in the same room in order to ensure that sexual conduct did not take place.

a finding supported by the Tokyo High Court again in 1997. it might furthermore be argued that Joseph Massad’s critical conceptualization of ‘the Gay International’. rather than defining either as a fixed polar opposite (Vincent et al. one leaflet designed to disseminate accurate information about homosexuality stated that the ratio of homosexual people in any population is about ten percent. 1997: 91–92). OCCUR’s actions in the 1990s were proof of a cultural influx of western gay culture into the country. and the ICD-10 (International Categorization of Diseases) by the World Health Organization in 1993. ı In a book titled Gei Sutad¯ zu. region. Many leaflets and quarterlies used in political campaigning were often written in a positivist manner. and period’ (OCCUR 1993a). most prominently the ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association) and IGLHRC (the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission) advocating the internationalization of gay rights movement (Massad 2002: 361). which was formulated by some western white-gay-men dominated institutions. and Kawaguchi carefully explain the rationale for OCCUR’s activism (Vincent et al. Indeed no one can deny that a group like OCCUR pursued their identity politics through a strong coalition with western-based queer organizations as they clearly stated so in one of the group’s pamphlets (OCCUR 1997: 28). in fact. Kazama Takashi (who was one of the plaintiffs of the lawsuit).492 Katsuhiko Suganuma 8–9). the Tokyo District Court found in favor of OCCUR. Or instead. Drawing on Shane Phelan’s notion of ‘(be)coming out’. Vincent. In Altman’s view. these writers perceive the act of coming out as a means to frustrate the solidity of both homosexual and heterosexual identity. To elaborate upon this possibility. As a counter to those examples. Effectively. For instance. and provided essentialist definitions for concepts such as homophobia. evidence of a total internalization of the international identity label of ‘gayness’ to the extent of constituting the essential inner selves of members. Ammiano gave evidence to the Japanese court explaining differences between Japan and the United States regarding education for young people about homosexuality. they insist that their enactment of a certain gay identity was tactically pursued. and gay identity. In other words. gained a certain currency when OCCUR’s activities are assessed from a globalist point of view. Kazama. In addition. can these activities be read through a ‘masking’ trope which would suggest that members deliberately wore a mask of ‘western’ gay identity while leaving the subjectivity beneath tangibly undefined. Keith Vincent. to testify (Suganuma 2004). and numerous state laws and domestic partnership provisions available at that time in the US (OCCUR 1993b: 3). OCCUR’s activities might be interpreted as an essentialist politicization of homosexual identity.4 In 1994. the group drew upon references primarily from Anglo-American gay identity politics in order to enact members’ subjectivities as different from the previously perceived imageries of male homosexual people by the public. In a more political polemic. In the lawsuit. they see m i]c [a r . On this occasion the court stated that OCCUR members should not have been treated differently by the hostel solely based upon their sexual orientation (Hanrei Taimuzu 1999). remaining constant ‘regardless of any differences in age. OCCUR members significantly demonstrated a reliance on crosscultural referencing when they invited San Francisco Board of Education member. academic publications by those three authors provide with us more intricate accounts of the group’s identity politics at work. and Kawaguchi Kazuya. 1997). At the time OCCUR had an extensive publication output. However the question arises whether the strategies adopted by OCCUR are. OCCUR claimed the normalcy of homosexuality by referring to various foreign precedents including the de-pathologization of homosexuality in the DSM-III-R (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) published by the American Psychiatric Association in 1987. homosexuality. From a positivist point of view. I will introduce the work of three key academics and members of OCCUR in the 1990s. In a discussion of their identity politics. Tom Ammiano.

but only to the extent that such presence does not pose any threat to the social ideology and value system of the majority population (Vincent et al. They hope that their coming-out strategy would function as an initial move to expose the complex nature of Japanese homophobia in which the state. However. first by ignoring that differences with regard to sexual agency existed between male homosexuals and male heterosexuals. imbedded in the social fabric. the Tokyo Metropolitan government boldly insisted that its decision to refuse OCCUR’s right to use their hostel was based not upon discrimination against their sexual orientation. And as many times as you go through the process. insisting on the ‘no-sex rule’. 1997: 119). it would have acknowledged automatically that male bodies were being put into the position of being objectified. by definition. the three authors perceive that this ostensibly ‘non-homophobic’ rhetoric employed by the government is a typical specimen of Japanese otonashii homophobia. They point out that the lawsuit against the Tokyo Metropolitan government illustrates this scenario clearly. the coming-out act by male homosexuals themselves is a necessary step. but rather made simply as a result of applying the ‘nosex rule’ equally subjected to heterosexual users. they are clearly aware that pursuing coming-out acts suggesting a certain gay identity should not constitute the essential inner-self. In comparison to the social situation facing queer individuals in the US. 1997: 109). The three authors insist that in order to tackle the complex nature of Japanese homophobia. However. This already signifies the government’s neglect of the sexual autonomy of male-homosexuals. it becomes clear that such an assumption presupposed or defined the sexuality of a male homosexual through a lens of male heterosexuals. they state: We will become gay [gei] only after going through the process of coming out [ kamingu auto]. rather than explicitly. changes in the meaning of being gay will . To the extent that it did not do this. therefore. Japanese homophobia functions in a way that allows a certain existence of homosexual culture. sexuality of maleheterosexuals which. 1997: 118). 1997: 120). According to them. However. which has a certain resonance to Martin’s understanding of the effects of a coming-out tactic through a masking trope. which they term as ‘quiet’ (otonashii) homophobia (Vincent et al. for example. Rather. they argue that such an optimistic understanding often hinders us from grasping the nature of Japanese homophobia. However. have put pressure on heterosexual males to compromise their hetero-normative ideology and also to give up the male privilege of constantly objectifying others (Vincent et al. grants them the socially approved agency to objectify others’ sexual bodies (Vincent et al. the visibility of homosexual culture in Japan needs to be contained in hetero-normative ideology in order for it to be ‘tolerated’.and government-sanctioned discriminations against homosexuals have been implicitly. and further by disapproving of the former in the public domain. male hetero-normative authority attempted to terminate the agency of homosexuals in the lawsuit. and would. Had it done so. In this regard. the absence of those instances in Japan somehow leads to the nostalgic assumption that Japan is relatively more tolerant. As defendant.Associative identity politics 493 the potential of such a coming out as a means to negotiate mutual understanding among all parties involved regardless of their sexual orientation. the government gave no approval to male homosexuality. where religious authorities and related moral values result in explicit condemnation of homosexuality. the otonashii homophobia awakes and deploys a cynical defense against the deconstructing force. their inner-self is contemporaneously crafted through the process of coming out. the Tokyo authorities conducted their campaign against OCCUR more ‘subtly’ by. Furthermore. rather than explicitly denouncing homosexuality on religious or other cultural grounds. If one considers that the government legitimized its decision by assuming that OCCUR’s members would engage in sexual conducts when together in a room. In other words. And when it appears ‘intolerable’.

(Vincent et al. In that. Such a reading raises another question pertinent to the tactic. The newly represented gay mask must have appeared in stark contrast to preexisting imageries manipulated through the mainstream media. 1997: 108) This way of perceiving their sexual identity through an act of coming out is a reflection of. In this sense. In the aforementioned leaflet published by OCCUR. 1997: 71–76). the representation that they employed for their masking heavily drew upon western references. this decision reflected concerns held against the possible side effects of the uncritical appropriation at that time of imported Foucauldian as well as postmodernist critiques against identity politics. Such a contrast would undoubtedly have had the effect of distilling the positionality of the mainstream audience . it is also recognized that they did not choose to wear a mask that fully reflects the ‘elusive’ gay identity that they theoretically envisaged. 1997: 22). the ‘elusive’ subjectivity expressed through the masking tactic. all the Japanese become ‘queers’ [in relation to the west]. They state that: As Ueno points out. At the same time. Reading OCCUR’s identity politics in the 1990s through the trope of masking. 1997: 159) Considering all these arguments put forward by the three authors in the 1990s. In practice. when issues of sexuality are considered from a cross-cultural perspective. namely how and in what ways did the audiences viewing OCCUR’s mask respond? As stated above. In a sense it looked as if they wore a ‘western’ mask for their own identitarian representation. indigenous Japanese words which the mainstream audience has used to describe male homosexuals. Such a method of OCCUR’s activism was termed by Asada Akira a ‘radical strategic essentialism’ (Asada et al. In my understanding. there is a glossary explaining several words and concepts relating to issues of homosexuality. as I pointed out above referring to OCCUR’s other published materials. Thus. In fact. in crafting their own mask. the employment of a ‘western’ mask on the surface of their identity politics was clearly their strategic move. I would argue that such a self-masking strategy was at work in the case of OCCUR’s activism in 1990s Japan. as opposed to English transliterations of ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ (OCCUR 1993a). the concrete conflicts and power dynamics between homosexuals and heterosexuals within Japanese society remain concealed. their strategic masking of their countenance is immediately apparent. such as ‘homo’ or ‘okama’ are not recommended to use. rather signifies a state of being which is constantly mobile. The trio argued that the repudiation of identity politics before the enactment of an identity in practice might work against the goal of social recognition for homosexual people in Japan (Vincent et al. at the time. when gender problems are discussed in a dichotomous frame between Japan and the West. As a result. borrowing Ueno Chizuko’s theorization on cross-cultural feminist critiques on the orientalist gender paradigm (Vincent et al. in a rhetorical discussion of the masking tactic. a more accurate reading of the tactics employed is that. OCCUR utilized a number of foreign terms and definitions which were not necessarily familiar to either the mainstream or other homosexual communities at that time. the agency that [Japanese] women need to possess in order to speak about their own issues will be appropriated by ‘[Japanese] men who become feminized by the West’. in Martin’s term. it can be said that being gay does not denote a certain static condition of being. all ‘the Japanese’ become ‘women’. OCCUR members found the utilization of explicit or definitive self-representation more efficient rather than the use of a more ambiguous public persona. the authors disdain such a way of thinking as a form of ‘reverse orientalism’. Critiquing those post-modernist perspectives that glorified the ostensibly ‘tolerant’ attitude of Japanese society toward homosexuality in comparison to other. (Vincent et al.494 Katsuhiko Suganuma follow. 1997: 158–161). In the same vein.

by failing to interact with other groups and individuals’ (Lunsing 1999: 315). The trend is toward shifting identities. and contestation of. However. which were introduced by OCCUR. their ‘western’ masking might have . thus ‘successful’ or ‘nonsuccessful’. what seemed to be occurring in the spectrum of Japanese queer culture in the 1990s was the contestation of various ‘shifting’ queer identities. As Lunsing himself rightly argues. rather than judging OCCUR’s activism using a ‘western mask’ as a failed instance of the westernization of Japanese queer culture. This way of looking at coming-out activism in 1990s Japan also reveals the processes operating beneath the mask ‘revealed’ to the spectator. since the number of publications and publicly recognizable activities by OCCUR decreased significantly after the late 1990s. and this trend fits perfectly with Japanese culture’ (Lunsing 1999: 314–315). The cultural anthropologist Wim Lunsing also argues from a cross-cultural perspective that OCCUR’s ‘emphasis on strengthening it [gay identity] seems to be an attempt to Americanize. framing the analytical point of departure upon the binary which Lunsing seemed to pursue. However. while the group may have utilized essentialism as a practical strategy for ‘shifting’ gay identity in Japan. Comparing OCCUR’s activism with those of other queer groups during that period. in this instance. we might assume that the group was unable to gain the general support of the homosexual community in Japan. Indeed. lawsuits and lobbying activities might have been unthinkably consumed as ‘western influence in Japan’ and thereby conservatively contained in the mainstream society as the work of distant ‘others’.Associative identity politics 495 in relation to that of homosexuals. because they strategically donned the ‘western’ mask. I have to wonder whether OCCUR’s activity needs to be assessed through the perspective of whether it was ‘indigenous’ or ‘imported’. As the opinion statement by the court reads. I regard it as a very significant contribution to the process of ‘shifting’ gay identity in 1990s Japan. As I mentioned above. From this perspective. For instance. As I argued above. to explain homosexuality in Japan (OCCUR 1996: 9–11). others. rather then having a rigidly set (katamatta) identity. the gay activist and scholar. one can argue that a certain audience of OCCUR’s mask was likely digesting their activism as ‘remote’ or ‘others’ to a certain degree. at the same time. It is likely that. the momentum that OCCUR created through numerous publications. This discussion is not particular to the case of the mainstream audience. the court quoted a significant amount of western references. If we situate OCCUR’s politics in the larger picture of this momentum. There was also a similar reaction among queer male communities to OCCUR’s identity politics. the public’s perception of OCCUR’s activism may have been tinged with a sense of ‘remoteness’ as if the whole thing was happening in extraordinary circumstances (Suganuma 2004). their understanding of gay identity at the conceptual level resisted the use of an essentialist ideology. As these occasions symbolize. which will not work. it is surely sufficient to judge OCCUR as one of a number of participants generating fragmented sections of the momentum within the collaboration of. These observations might be accurate from a positivist point of view. Furthermore with the court ruling of 1994 it was the first time that the notion of homosexuality was officially narrated in legal terms in Japan. Using a trope of masking to read OCCUR’s politics as well as their political relationship with audiences assists us to see their activities as multifaceted rather than monolithic. This is especially true of the impact of the group’s court victory over the Tokyo authorities occurring in the absence of laws specifically protecting the rights of homosexual people. Lunsing concludes that ‘OCCUR has largely remained outside discussions taking place within a gay and lesbian context in Japan. Sunagawa Hideki expressed his disappointment that OCCUR did not engage in a discussion of how and what exactly their identity politics were applicable to the everyday life of Japanese homosexuals (Sunagawa 1999: 148). This frustrating effect on audiences of the mask assumed by OCCUR was a feature of 1990s Japan.

the Japanese term meaning ‘pervert’ (Fushimi 1991: 8). Instead. Fushimi became an influential participant in Japanese queer male identity formation ¯ with the release of his book Private Gay Life (Puraibe to Gei Raifu) in 1991. Asahi. This book discussed a number of fundamental theoretical frameworks on which his writings and activities that followed have been premised. the group’s activism forced Japanese society to acknowledge a new model of gay mask gazing directly back at it. he emphasizes that in order to create a society where people can live with mutual understanding. he states that although he is a member of the sexual minority referred to as gay. Media coverage of OCCUR’s activity. Dissociating his understanding of the word ‘hentai’ from the negative connotations imposed by society. Fushimi clarifies his non-essentialist position in pursuing a gay activism by declaring that he prefers to identify himself as ‘hentai’. In that OCCUR added another ‘mask’ to the stage upon which the social perception of male homosexuals was crafted. In contrast. Thus. Some may cite this ‘remoteness’ and ‘otherness’ to argue that OCCUR’s westernized political strategies were less effective in the Japanese context. Thus. Their lawsuit against Tokyo Metropolitan government was widely reported by many Japanese newspapers including the major dailies. I gave a reading of OCCUR’s gay identity politics through the metaphor of masking to describe some of the queer male identity formations of the 1990s. such a reading of OCCUR comes to the fore only when the group’s politics are viewed through an epistemological binary of ‘Japan/West’. the article the Sankei Daily read ‘…Unlike in many Euro-American societies where the civil rights of homosexuals have gradually been granted. as well as to re-negotiate their own self-identity in relation to homosexual people.496 Katsuhiko Suganuma produced an image in the eyes of the audience of the group as ‘remote’ or ‘othered’ homosexual beings. This section of the paper uses the same perspective to read another key queer male political element of the decade. Questions might be raised concerning my choice of a single writer rather than an organization such as OCCUR as a representative of queer male identity politics in comparatively analyzing the political momentums of that decade. Sankei. the book is a ‘private’ account of self-consciously choosing a gay identity. substantiates this claim. For instance. it is important for each one of us to ea m [r ]c . he has no wish to defend this status by claiming normalcy for being gay. Mainichi. it is not a definitive account of ‘what gay is’ or the identity. audiences had to re-craft their perception of homosexual beings. Many of the articles emphasized the discourse of their lawsuit and activism as a ‘first’ and ‘new’ in the context of Japan. Examining his identity politics through a masking trope enables further understanding of the intricate processes of queer male identity formation at work in that decade. especially since the early 1990s. Fushimi Noriaki should be acknowledged as one of the most prominent figures involved in debates about contemporary queer male culture in Japan. Fushimi Noriaki. Fushimi reconfigures it as resistance to social norms. Ambivalent painting of a mask(s) by Fushimi Noriaki In the previous section. OCCUR’s ‘western’ queer male mask indeed functioned as a facilitator for debunking the myth of Japanese homosexuals that are deeply imbedded within the society. namely the material of gay writer. In other words. However. and Yomiuri (OCCUR 1996: 24). the same year that OCCUR mounted its lawsuit against the Tokyo Metropolitan government. Yet. considering the influences his publications had both inside and outside the marginalized queer community. As is evident from the title. This kind of media narrative would give the readers a perception of newness towards homosexuals in the Japanese context. this is the first instance in which a discussion of human rights for homosexuals has been brought to a court in Japan’ (OCCUR 1996: 27). At the very beginning of the book. a metaphorical reading of OCCUR’s coming-out acts through a masking trope liberates us from being confined by the rigidity of this binary. especially their involvement in the lawsuit.

In this light. Recalling the time when he wrote Puraib e to Gei Raifu in the early 1990s. Fushimi’s doubts about essentialist forms of identity relate to his theorization of the intersectionality between gender and sexuality. In erotic intimacy. In this sense. Thus. Fushimi terms such an aspect of the ‘hetero-system’ as ‘hetero-sexualism’ (Fushimi 1991: 169). homosexuality and heterosexuality hold a mutually exclusive status independent of one another. Duly acknowledging the limits of positivistic gay identity politics. In other words. he does not imply that within the current ‘heterosystem’. He reiterates that it is necessary for us to decipher objectively the difference between the two concepts. which are those of ‘male image’ and ‘female image’. acknowledging that the rules for the game are arbitrarily crafted. He terms the mechanism by which people constitute their erotic apparatus through utilization of the ‘male image’ and ‘female image’ as the ‘hetero-system’. In other words. neither homosexuality nor heterosexuality can transcend the effects of the ‘hetero-system’ itself. By adopting a perspective which says that any kind of erotic intimacy is ‘a game’. We can best understand Fushimi’s perspective on identity politics by acknowledging that for him to employ a ‘gay’ identity in ¯ his book was strategic in nature. denying the existence of gender ‘images’ is the same thing as denying human sexuality itself (Fushimi 1991: 170). of which after all he was critically suspicious. According to Fushimi. and to find the ways to respect someone else’s ‘hentai’-ness (Fushimi 1991: 8). In order to do this. he claims that most human sexualities are functioned on the premise of what he terms ‘hetero-system’ (Fushimi 1991: 167). the contemporary ‘hetero-system’ to which he refers is constituted as a way to preserve the norm of heterosexuality. he insists that there cannot be any differences between homosexuality and heterosexuality given that both of them are sexualities that manifest erotic desire through appropriation of either ‘male image’ or ‘female image’. Fushimi argues that all erotic intimacy is fundamentally premised upon the desire of ‘collecting an image’ (Fushimi 1991: 167). there are two basic parameters representing the ‘image’. As he clarifies. the necessary task is not to eliminate the ‘images’ themselves but to modify the significance that ‘images’ are accorded in the ‘hetero-system’. Fushimi’s doubts about the homo-hetero binary in understanding human sexuality and critiques of essentialistic identity politics have a theoretical synchronicity with western Queer theory which had contemporaneously evolved since the early 1990s (Noguchi 2003: 149). de-naturalize human sexuality. Fushimi hopes that people will deal with human sexuality in the same way that people play any kind of ordinary games. he argues that forms of gay men’s gender-exclusive identity politics and lesbian separatism that do not take into consideration the intersection of gender and sexuality only critique ‘hetero-sexualism’ but do not deconstruct the ‘hetero-system’ itself.Associative identity politics 497 realize that we are all ‘hentai’ one way or another. In the book. the author states that he thought it was necessary to demystify the social perceptions toward male homosexuals held by the society of that time (Fushimi and Noguchi 2004: ea m []r c . Fushimi’s strategy of distilling the rigidly defined structure of the current ‘heterosystem’ was in analytical accordance with the methodology of ‘parody’ deployed by western Queer theory (Sunagawa 1999: 146). in the process. in order to pursue his activism? First. how did Fushimi strategize his way of deconstructing the ‘hetero-system’ which suppresses homosexuality in the current form? And what was at stake in his use of the identity of ‘gay’. he proposes that we should perceive all erotic desires as the products of the ‘image-game’ (Fushimi 1991: 174). Exposing the arbitrary constructions of the ‘rules’ for erotic intimacy would. the intersections of gender and sexuality cannot be separately discussed in understanding the process of constituting one’s own gay identity. However. Fushimi reiterates that no erotic apparatus can be constituted if the gender ‘images’ within the ‘hetero-system’ are fully repudiated. he proposes that activism should not aspire toward the goal of abolishing the ‘hetero-system’ itself. He conceptualizes the notion of ‘hetero-system’ with his theory of ‘eros’. Furthermore.

There is no doubt that. a certain distinction can be drawn between them. who chose to employ foreign references in the process of creating their ‘gay’ mask. However. In those publications. In contrast to OCCUR’s tactic. as he acknowledges in the introduction of Kuia Paradaisu.498 Katsuhiko Suganuma 10). transgenders. In Puraib e to Gei Raifu. whose members did not perceive a significant association of their activism with pre-existing local cultures. Fushimi took a different approach. he predominantly used the word ‘kuia’ in his publications since the mid-1990s. Accordingly. ¯ It can be argued that his book Puraib e to Gei Raifu was the first milestone of his project which attempted to paint the autonomous ‘gay’ mask throughout the decade. Rather. which employed pre-existing foreign references. Fushimi’s approach is somewhat different from OCCUR. In this respect. This project is evidence of Fushimi’s intention to trace the roots of Japanese queer male culture. which includes the book. after spending ten years on its research. By inserting another discourse signifying the social imagery of male homosexuals. Fushimi’s way of strategically repainting the ‘gay’ mask is similar to that of OCCUR analyzed in the previous section. discussing the crafting of his self-identity with regard to gender and sexuality by trial and error in the milieu of the aforementioned ‘hetero-system’ in which he had to function. this time that of ‘kuia’. Leupp 1995. the Japanese transliteration of the English word ‘Queer’. Fushimi’s collaborative approach on illuminating the ‘gay’ mask took another turn during the mid-1990s when western Queer theory started to gain a certain currency within Japanese homosexual cultures. Rather than letting that happen. bisexuals. I argue that this is radically different from a mere importation of Queer theory from the West. Fushimi aimed at painting his in a more fragmentary manner. he was afraid that the ‘gay’ mask that he had worked on constituting since the early 1990s would be deconstructed. Fushimi emphasized incorporating other queer minorities apart from male queers. Instead of aiming towards constituting the mask with a certain ¯ definitive trope. To my knowledge. especially concerning the different approaches in their actual ‘countenancing’ of their masks. Fushimi tried to incorporate some locally developed pre-1990s queer male culture. This similarity in both their doubts on essentialist identity politics and their tactical masking acts is acknowledged by Fushimi himself (Fushimi et al. Compared to the relatively rich cultural as well as academic attention paid to ancient Japanese male-homo eroticism (Furukawa 1994. including lesbians. Fushimi decided to use strategically the lexical mask. Fushimi attempted to enact a platform from which sexual minorities could speak for and about themselves. Fushimi published his essay entitled ‘Archeology of gay: where do “we” come from? A search for gay history in Japan’ (Gei no k okogaku: ‘watashitachi’ wa dokokara yattekitanoka? Nihon no gei no rekishi wo ¯ ¯ tanb osuru) (2002). Fushimi recalls that when post-structuralist discourse on identity formation pertinent to western Queer theory began to gain popularity within Japanese academia. his book functioned to both address a certain instance of ‘gay’ identification while simultaneously inviting readers as participants to collaboratively paint the rest of the mask that he intended to project for the gaze of the audience. the culture of the post-war era was the subject of little academic interest until the 1990s. rather than allowing mainstream society to supplant their subjective agency. Pflugfelder 1999). 1999: 93). However. This essay introduced a great deal of information about queer male cultures that existed prior to the 1990s in the form of literature. Unlike OCCUR. in order to preserve the platform for male homosexuals to paint their own mask (Fushimi et al. social groups and activist groups. Fushimi tells the readers that there are multiple ways of constituting this identity. and the magazine Queer Japan (1999). Kuia Paradaisu (1996). 1999: 93). Fushimi’s understanding of western Queer theory led to his seeing the necessity of incorporating other sexual minorities into his activities. Introducing his personal experience as just one example of ‘gay’ identification. and transsexuals. magazines. e ]r [a m c ea m []c r o]c [a m r o]c [a m r . he autobiographically narrates his ‘gay’ identity. he was one of the first figures who conducted detailed research on queer male culture in post-war Japan.

one can indeed postulate the differences between Fushimi’s and OCCUR’s masks’ ‘outlooks’. However. rather than opposed. as proof of the existence of some ‘indigenous’ Japanese queer culture to be defended against globalizing forces. from the mid-1990s onward. the audience of Fushimi’s ‘gay’ mask found themselves being confused by the ever-evolving countenance of the mask’s surface. In a comparative sense. To put it differently. Fushimi’s incorporation of local queer male cultures as well as dialogue among different sexual minorities certainly imposed an anxiety within the psyche of the audiences.Associative identity politics 499 Fushimi found some theoretical synchronicity between the imported Queer theory and his own theorization of sexual subjectivity. Furthermore. I have no aim to conclude that one or the other type of masking was more ‘effective’ or ‘appropriate’ to the context of 1990s Japan. if the binary scheme dominates our analytical points of both departure and destination. contrasting them within the binary spectrum of ‘West’ or ‘Japanese’. Rather. Furthermore. In this respect. As this paper suggests. and ‘global’ or ‘local’. since it was assumed to be unviable for audiences to contain Fushimi’s mask as simply ‘foreign’ or ‘remote’. to read two seemingly conflicting examples of queer male politics through a masking perspective enables us to shift our analytical point of view away from the ‘West/non-West’ binary approach in understanding Japanese queer male culture. as well as humorous writing style with many idiosyncratic expressions. Conclusion: unmasking of the binary trope By pointing out these characteristics. 2005). and transsexuals. must also have functioned to facilitate audience perceptions of the ‘engaging-ness’ of his masking. Thus. However. Fushimi’s work concentrates on continually painting the countenance of the ‘gay’ mask or the ‘kuia’ mask. and frustrated by the ‘elusive’ nature of the mask’s projection. the fact that both OCCUR and Fushimi came up with a similar ‘strategic essentialism’ ideology in the same decade in Japan suggests that their politics developed in close correlation with the social milieu facing sexual minorities in the local as well as global context. transgenders. The urge to draw a stark contrast between ‘Japan/West’ in discussing Japanese queer male culture becomes prevalent only with a conscious intention to challenge a presumed globalization trope of gay identity. the divergence in tactics of countenancing queer male subjectivity led OCCUR to use a ‘western’ mask and Fushimi an ‘ambivalent’ and probably more ‘local’ oriented mask. our observation regarding their politics fails to account for the stories waiting to be told beneath the masks. it is important to keep in mind that sometimes dependence on the binary notion of indigenous culture could collude to create an over-simplified trope of Japanese queer culture in relation to a referential opponent. throughout the decade. which can be constituted in a more associative relation to other masks. the strategic enactment of Japanese queer male identity was deployed with a shared. Thus. bisexuals. which distinguish Fushimi’s masking from that of OCCUR. such as those of lesbians. we can obtain this view only when we concern their politics with a multi-layered perspective rather than a monolithic one. given the resilient academic hegemony of Anglo-American based queer studies and its discourses (Jackson et al. especially. we need to avoid appropriating the latter case. . Fushimi’s masking tactic took a more tentative and constructive approach compared to the method used by OCCUR. As pointed out above. The most problematic outcome of the use of such a rigid binarism is the repudiation of the politics of a group like OCCUR from the discussion of Japanese queer male culture due to its ostensible association with the West. His playful public appearance. despite the different mask’s countenances represented by the masks. Consideration of a masking analysis is apposite and helpful in avoiding such an outcome. However. ideology by OCCUR and Fushimi. The utilization of a binary framework may hold a certain legitimacy.

Asada. Examining two specific instances of queer male politics through a masking trope. Narratives of the lived experiences of members of these minorities are some of the principal means through which we can productively pursue the development of theories of queer identity formation. as mentioned above. the term ‘Queer’ with a capital first letter is used when it refers primarily to the notion of ‘Queer’. were occurring in 1990s Japan. the masking reading delves into the complex scenarios which constitute the premise of the surfaces. However this paper. Secondly. In Kazama Takashi. . 1996). Unmasking the non-quintessential sets of stories beneath these surfaces refutes the analytical applicability of pre-existing binary paradigms. see OCCUR (1993b. 3. due to its specified aim of analyzing queer male identities in the 1990s Japan. Chon. Akira. GLQ 3: 417–436. Keith (1998) ‘Sexuality and activism’ ‘ ’. I use the term ‘queer’ with a lower case letter ‘q’ as opposed to ‘gay’ to refer both to groups of people as well as to ideas that are sexually and gender non-normative in a broad sense. neo-colonialist understanding of ‘non-West’. Dennis (1997) ‘Global gaze/global gays’. Tokyo: Ugoku gei to rezubian no kai. In this paper. 120–144. these cultures in Japan are also continuously crafted in a tentative mode and will be premised upon ‘the productive integration among local. The fact that OCCUR chose a ‘western’ reference at that time merely shows the empirical reality that some segments of Japanese queer culture have been immensely influenced by the West. 2. these two narratives can be easily and problematically referenced to substantiate discursive claims concerning whether Japanese queer culture is ‘indigenous’ or ‘globalized’. which has gained a certain currency within academia as well as in activism since the early 1990s. one can simply observe that multiply layered queer male identity politics. Asada. Keith Vincent and Kawaguchi Kzuya (eds) Practicing sexualities . I acknowledge that OCCUR also put a great deal of effort into working on issues relating to Japanese lesbians. See Welker (2006). especially in the post-war era. as Fran Martin posits. and a reactionary localism.500 Katsuhiko Suganuma I chose to focus on these two specific narratives in this paper. as with contemporary Taiwanese queer cultures. both contributed significantly to the formation of Japanese queer male identities in the 1990s. because firstly. as they have always been. (1997) References Altman. Instead. Kazuya ¯ (1997) ‘Lesbian/gay studies today’ ‘ ’. and Vincent et al. discourses and practices that characterize’ them (Martin 2003: 30). At the same time. Fushimi’s move to recollect the past of homosexual culture also denotes this culture’s long historical existence in Japan. Instead. Maree. Yonhe and Kawaguchi. 4. Gendai shiso 25(6): 18–57. Hanrei Taimuzu (1999). as if it is a static entity. Far from paying too much attention to the surfaces of cultures. For a detailed account of this lawsuit. Akira and Vincent. Notes 1. Claire. is only focused on this particular subject dealt with by OCCUR. These reflected realities do not animate any further the legitimacy of the argument that Japanese queer male culture is by and large either ‘indigenously’ or ‘globally’ constituted. such as ‘West/non-West’. national. in terms of both its cross-national and intra-national associations. Examples of ostensibly queer male ‘friendly’ popular phenomena in Japan prior to the 1990s are the Boys Love and YAOI subcultures which gained popularity primarily among female audiences. oa m [r ]c . global and regional histories. The identities of sexual minorities in Japan are in a state of constant oscillation due to their experience of cross-national and intra-local dislocation and influx.

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Tokyo: Ch uo daigaku shup¯ panbu . ¯ Welker. Tokyo: Keis o shob o Vincent. OCCUR (1993b) Full document of the (final) victim statement of opinion . 135–153. Hitoshi (2006) ‘The history of representation of “men who love men” and “feminized” men in post-war Japanese magazine media’ ‘ ’. ua []r m c o]a m [c r oa m [r ]c oa m []r c oa m []r c Special terms tongxinglian xian yin Author’s biography Katsuhiko Suganuma is a PhD candidate in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. He is a co-editor (with Mark McLelland and James Welker) of Queer Voices from Japan (Lanham. In Fushimi ¯ ¯ . Sunagawa. 1. (1999) Cartographies of desire: male–male sexuality in Japanese discourse. Katsuz o (2003) ‘Lesbian/gay studies’ ‘ ’.) Queer Japan vol. Sedgwick. OCCUR (1997) Report of the 12th General Meeting . Kazuya (1997) Gay studies . John Medley Building. queer globalization and postcolonial feminism. borrowed. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Australia . Suganuma. James (2006) ‘Beautiful. Noriaki (ed.) Introduction to homosexuality . Parkville. Berkeley: University of California Press. His PhD thesis looks at ways in which ‘contact moments’ between Japanese queer male culture and that of the West (Euro-America) have affected the identity formation process of Japanese queer selves in post-war Japan. Tokyo: Potto shuppan . MA thesis at the State University of New York at Albany. Kazama. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 31(3): 841–870. OCCUR (1996) The Tokyo district court: Judgment . 147–155. Donald (1995) ‘Masks and the semiotics of identity’. In Fushimi Noriaki (ed. Hideki (1999) ‘Japanese gay/lesbian studies’ ‘ ’.502 Katsuhiko Suganuma Murakami. West Tower. and bent: boys’ love as girls’ love’. in Sh o jo Manga’. 519–556. His research focuses on contemporary Japanese sexuality politics. Victoria 3010. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 1(3): 581–597. Takashi and Kawaguchi. Pollock. Contact address: School of Culture and Communication. 1600–1950.) Studies of post-war Japanese drag and homosexuality . Katsuhiko (2004) ‘“Sexuality” politics of contemporary Japanese society in relation to AngloAmerican queer globalisation’.1 vol. OCCUR (1993a) A manual for homosexual broadcasting . Tokyo: Seidosha . Pflugfelder. Keith. Eve Kosofsky (1990) Epistemology of the closet. Level 2. Gregory M. Takanori and Ishida. ¯ Noguchi. 2007). University of Melbourne. MD: Lexington Books. In Yajima Masami (ed.

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