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Bar Gold Finger Updates: Ogawa’s Message, Community Reactions, and the Cost of Transphobia

When pillars of a community screw up so royally they get featured on PinkNews, we kind of expect a message to come from them directly at some point. Chiga Ogawa finally gave us her message about “the events” that took place on that fateful night when Elin McCready was turned away for “not being feminine enough” to gain entry.

Anyways, Chiga Ogawa’s statement came out. It’s…a good start, but it’s not the best response to give in this kind of situation. You can follow the link for the PDF if you like.

Chiga Ogawa’s Notice In Japanese
Chiga Ogawa’s Notice in English

Now, here’s the thing: This apology lacks the impact it wants, because before this Chiga Ogawa talked to Shingetsu News about the events that took place. To be sort-of fair, Chiga Ogawa wasn’t quoted directly (which is some BAD journalism, but that’s a whole other nickpick). Instead her words were paraphrased all to hell, so what she exactly said is lost in this muddled interpretation of what she said, which doesn’t make her look very good in relation to this apology. Chiga Ogawa’s section in the report says:

In her exclusive interview, Ogawa explained that Bar Gold Finger does not have a policy of excluding transgender people. Six nights a week all members of the LGBT community are welcome to patronize the bar, and they have transgender customers.

Moreover, Bar Gold Finger has held specifically transgender-themed events, even in earlier times when the acceptance of LGBT people was not as wide as it is today. Ogawa herself has offered various kinds of personal support to her transgender friends.

The recent notion, therefore, that she is a “TERF” simply doesn’t accord with the decades-long record of Ogawa’s personal behavior and the policies and patronage of Bar Gold Finger.

Just because you have trans events doesn’t mean that you aren’t a TERF. Having a business that allows in a certain set of customers (as in FTM and Cis-gender) means that you’re specifically excluding trans women because YOU DON’T CONSIDER THEM WOMEN. Excluding trans women is the act of a TERF, a very specific minded TERF.

Sidebar: The article tries to make it sound like Elin McCready “started this controversy” but no, she didn’t. Bar Gold Finger staff started this controversy when they decided to be exclusionary. Plus, I’m the one calling Chiga a TERF, not Elin. Just to be clear, Elin has been a ray of sunshine in butterflies. I’m the bitchy one.

Also, where the hell are these trans friends of Chiga’s? Why aren’t they being quoted? Where is the actual evidence that she’s allowing trans gender people into the bar? Pictures, videos, testimonials, hell hit up Google and look at the reviews on the bar or something.

As someone who has been in the various communities getting a shit ton of feedback about the bar from people, I can tell you that I have received a lot of really discouraging comments about other people who have been turned away from Bar Gold Finger.

Before you’re like, “Only three isn’t a ‘shiton,’ idiot!” I chose these three out of the bunch because they were the most anonymous. I don’t want to go around outing friends and community members.

Many other long and heartbreaking stories have made their way into my inbox on Facebook and Twitter. A pattern very easily developed. Trans women were consistently asked for ID, had their attire questioned/analyzed, the way they spoke mocked, consistently asked, “Are you really trans?” in Japanese, and so on. You get the idea.

But don’t worry! Chiga Ogawa has a fantastic explanation for these stories!

Ogawa indicates that McCready was not allowed entry to the Women Only event because she and her staff felt that her presence was likely to be disruptive to other patrons, and that she didn’t have an entirely feminine presence about her in dress and demeanor.

Ogawa also noted that decades of operating a bar in Nichome has taught her to be careful. Not all individuals who are born male and wearing female clothes are genuinely transgender. In her own experience she has seen cases of heterosexual men cruising Nichome in drag with the intention of picking up women, as part of their own sexual fetishes.

Ogawa accepts the principle that transgender women are women. But running a bar in Nichome encompasses practical judgments as well as ideological ones. That means not all patrons will be given a welcome. Sometimes individuals will be turned away if there’s a sense that they may disturb the other patrons. Rightly or wrongly, McCready was judged to fall into this category in the context of the long-established Women Only event.

Still, Ogawa owns up to the fact that putting the “WOMEN (cisgender) ONLY” message on the May event poster was “a big mistake” on her part. It was a ham-handed attempt to settle the controversy which only made things much worse, and didn’t truly reflect her own feelings or the bar’s policies.

The bullshit excuse was underlined and put in bold by me, not the news agency.

As I said previously in my video, using the excuse that you’re equating trans women as drag queens or cross dressers is a flimsy way to hide your transphobia. Harassment is illegal and assault is illegal, period. Also, these supposed “men dressing up as women” might be like me, a genderqueer who identifies as both, or genderfluid, or myriad of other non-binary identities.

Getting back to the transphobia of it all, if you want to educate yourself on how to fight back against arguments TERFs regularly bring up (like Chiga’s) then read “‘I’m not transphobic, but…’: A feminist case against the feminist case against trans inclusivity.” Under the section “Playing It Safe:”

We don’t pretend to know for sure, though. We don’t think that this is something that anybody knows. The question, however, is what to do in the absence of knowledge. The sentiment, “better to be safe than sorry!” often surfaces at this point: we’re pretty confident about the relative risks of violence against women from cis men and cis women respectively; trans women are an unknown quantity; so better to play safe.

But safe for whom? This is where the feminist case against inclusivity may again turn out to rest on a circular pattern of reasoning. When keeping women’s spaces for cis women only is held to be safest for cis women, or ‘females’, is the tacit assumption that trans women are not (‘really’) women, and hence not a population which feminism needs to represent? If so, it would certainly be good to have this claim out in the open, since feminist opponents of inclusivity sometimes claim either to regard trans women as women or to be ‘agnostic’ on that issue – one which, as will become clear shortly, we believe to be a fundamentally political, rather than a biological or metaphysical question.

If, on the other hand, trans women are thought of as a subset within ‘women’ – much like the group ‘white women’, for example – then this just raises the question of why some women’s safety should take precedence over that of others, especially when the risk allegedly posed to cis women by trans women seems to be purely theoretical – not supported by evidence – while the risk to trans women from cis men is beyond doubt. The World Health Organisation’s systematic review of violence motivated by perception of sexual orientation and gender identity in 2017 found that transgender people suffer from a disproportionately high prevalence of physical and sexual violence. Research suggests trans people are more likely than cis people to experience homelessness, and trans women in particular are more likely to engage in sex work – both of which make a person more likely to experience sexual violence.

Excluding trans women from women spaces can kill them, like straight up get them beaten and murdered. Holding this line for who and who doesn’t “pass” in order to get into this bar tells trans women, “We would rather you be out there in danger than safe in here with us. You make us uncomfortable, and we would rather not question our own internal transphobia tonight. Get out and stay out.”

I find it hard to believe that just after doing this interview, Chiga Ogawa has done a complete 180 on her stance. Even though her official statement says trans women will be allowed into women only night, how the hell can I trust that to be true when I’ve got all the evidence pointing to all these past events wherein trans women were kicked out? And then this interview with her giving the standard TERF reasoning for not letting MTF and trans women not into women only spaces?

Now, also like I said in my previous video, I don’t want Gold Finger cancelled. I do want to see real, tangible change occur. I have hope. Even if this apology message has come far too late, and contradicts a news article days before Ogawa’s official apology was released, I do still have some hope.

Personally, I might have felt more at ease if Elin got a name drop in this apology, even if it was just one sentence. It seems like it’s just intended to bring back business, not actually ask for forgiveness. It doesn’t help that the news agency also predominantly displayed the next June Bride event at Gold Finger. This feels more like a business decision, not a sincere attempt to bridge the troubled waters between Gold Finger and the trans community.

No doubt the #BoycottGoldfinger movement that started on Twitter made an impact. I know also that Tokyo Weekender pulled an old article titled “Bar Gold Finger Chiga Ogawa: What Nichome Means to Me” off its website (although the video with Chiga is still up on YouTube). She’s losing her place as a leader in the community, and not without good reason.

Because really, this whole thing isn’t really about her, it’s about the constant stomping on trans women and their right to exist to women only spaces.

The first comment I got on my blog was a transphobic one. I removed it, because screw you whoever you are in Hokkaido. I didn’t want my trans and genderqueer friends to see that shit if they didn’t have to be exposed to it. But I need to make a point, so I’m going to show it and another transphobic comment I got on YouTube.

Trans women are women
Trans women are women

And also, I was a member of a group on Facebook and this happened (be forewarned, a lot of anti-trans rhetoric).

All the wrong words and all the wrong mentality. This is the classic case of pretending to want to be “educated” but in fact you’re putting this “opinion” out there to cause a fight on purpose. It’s trans phobic trolling. I left this group after I called it out and got chastised and demeaned for it.

When transphobia pops up, other transphobes get in on the action. I’ve had people hitting up my Twitter threads and trying to convince me that men sneaking into bathhouses are the same as trans women. TERFs got bold in these past couple of weeks, coming all out of the woodwork to express their stance “with Gold Finger” in “protecting women.”

The consequences I care about aren’t about Gold Finger’s attendance or boycott or whatever. I know for a fact that this fight is about pushing back against TERFs and transphobes who are belligerently ignorant. They don’t want to understand, they just want to hate and hurt trans people.

The apology is out there, but it doesn’t really fix the damage done. There is trust broken and a lot of healing to do. Nichome is supposed to be the place we can go to feel safe, but the safety of trans people should be included in those priorities. I still don’t feel like it is.

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Author:

Life in Japan suits me, so I write about it.

One thought on “Bar Gold Finger Updates: Ogawa’s Message, Community Reactions, and the Cost of Transphobia

  1. Good lord, this is disturbing. I can’t believe the comments you got, and that the trolls seem to have even made it off youtube and facebook to your wordpress. I am glad that you made a follow up post addressing and analyzing GF’s response to the issue. I personally don’t blog about these topics though I do try and keep up with them, but I support you for doing so, and the LGBT+ community affected by this situation.

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