Dedicated to all the people who get mad I won’t go home with them because they can’t grasp bisexuality.
Person who claims to be interested in me, “Oh, so which do you prefer?”
“…I’m bisexual, I like anyone who isn’t an asshole.”
“But which do you date more?”
A very long and beleaguered sigh. “I’ve dated all across the spectrum at this point, but more women identifying nowadays.”
“Ok, so you’re more gay than straight.”
“That’s…that’s not how that works. I’m not straight, I’m the B in LGBT.”
“Well, you want to marry a woman right?”
“Marriage really isn’t a priority for me. I’d like to fall in love with someone, but it’s not a big deal.”
“Do you want to marry both?”
“I’m monogamous, so I think the answer you’re looking for is no. By the way, this date is turning into an interrogation which is kind of a turn off-.”
“But when you get married, that’s when you choose, right?”
“What? No, I’m not choosing a side. Just because you get married doesn’t mean you stop being attracted to people. Getting married wouldn’t ‘cure’ me of being bi.”
“Yeah, but wait, are you saying you would cheat?”
“No, but that is a common stereotype thrown at bis and pans, so thanks for assuming that.”
“Still, it sounds like you want everybody, ya know.”
“Yeah, that’s also a common stereotype, and a dangerous one because people think we’re always up for sex and try to force it on us.”
“Well, you should consider maybe being safer and just pick one.”
“Wow, do you tell all your dates to stop being queer for safety reasons or am I just special?”
“Look, if you’re attracted to everyone-.”
“Still not attracted to terrible people, actually, speaking of-.”
“-but I’ve heard that bisexuals aren’t attracted to transgender people?”
I groan and wish I could just punt the date into the sun. “No, transpobes exist across all the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, but I will date a trans person. However, gender identity and expression do affect how I am attracted to some people over others.”
“So, you’re attracted to someone like me, right?”
“Nope. At this point in the conversation I want to go home and be one with blissful silence.”
“Gee, why you gotta be such a bitch?”
“I AM NOT YOUR LIVING PERSONAL GOOGLE, YOU EMPTY POPTART!”
And that’s why I usually end up going home alone. Thank you for your time.
Once I understood the depth of what was happening (see part one and two here), I ended talked to many people, both Japanese and non-Japanese. Their experiences and advice opened my eyes to the truth about the Japanese society that produces a self-policing community. I am not an expert on Japanese culture. However, there is a collective agreement that bullying is particularly vicious in Japanese schools. There are studies upon studies. This culture extends to the workplace, where the spirit of stoicism and “not causing trouble” philosophy are enforced. Until people just can’t take it any more, and walk onto the tracks of the passing trains. Suicides are pretty common in Japan. Including teen suicides and kids in elementary school. See article: Two former classmates ordered to pay ¥37 million in damages over bullied Japanese boy’s suicide. If you don’t want to “cause trouble” with your suicide (your…
So here we were in Tokyo, almost 6 months later. I had thought we were well settled in. I had found a very nice Nigerian lady to do my hair, and Jeremy would play with her two kids while she worked her magic. I was even having a semblance of a social life, going out dancing once in a while with Vivi, my Italian friend and coworker. I was dating a nice Frenchman (😘 😘Chris, keep on being full of light) in his 30’s who would bring me salad and play living room soccer with Jeremy.
Writing this series of posts is having to relive the pain of the experience and that’s why I have been avoiding it for over 5 months now. But writing is cathartic, therapeutic even… so here we are, finally.
Before you read this, it is important to get some context and background. I came to Japan in October 2014 on a fully funded scholarship, courtesy of the Japanese government. The scholarship covers everything including a flight ticket, tuition and a monthly stipend at your university of choice in Japan. It was a great opportunity for me to do my PhD, and experience a new culture, having never lived elsewhere except in East Africa.
Japan’s been getting hit recently with a bunch of scandals when it comes to its justice system, particularly in its handling of foreigners. Most of the news is focused on Ghosn’s grand escape and possible seven to eight hours of questioning, and I mean that’s fair, it’s a rather sensational story. However, there is another news story sliding a little under the radar of the international community, and it’s horrifying for all foreigners who work in Japan.
A Filipino worker in Yokohama had her passport, college transcript, and college diploma “allegedly” stolen from her. After they gave her a job as an interpreter, Advanceconsul Immigration Lawyer Office supposedly only paid here 100,000 yen (~$960) a month. Let me assure you, that wage is criminally low for a full time position. Even at my worst eikaiwa job I got 250,000 yen.
According to the reports, *AdvanceConsul Certified Administrative Procedures Legal Specialists’ Office in Yokohama wanted these documents to “keep her from running away” from her job.
I call that statement absolute bullshit.
If you’re an employer in the year of our Lord 2020 and you think it’s somehow acceptable to hold a passport hostage in order to make someone work for you? That’s fucking barbaric and disgusting. Also, if you’re using the same tactics as sex traffickers and drug smugglers that force people from country to country to be sold like cattle, you might want to rethink your Human Resources angle in your arguments.
It really bothers me how everyone wants to kind of gloss over this event like it’s not a big deal, but no, it’s honestly horrifying. Thanks to this scandal, Japan Today reported something I honestly wasn’t aware of:
It is illegal in Japan for companies to confiscate the passports of technical trainees under a special intern program, but there is no law forbidding firms from taking the passports of foreign laborers in Japan under other visa schemes.
There is a government guideline advising against the confiscation of passports but it is not legally binding.
What fuckery is this?!
I like to think I’m pretty aware of immigration laws. I honestly cannot count by this point how many times I’ve been through an immigration office in Japan, and yet this tidbit never came up?! What the hell?
The irony that a law office is creating a situation in which a new law might get drafted isn’t lost on me. The very people who should know better are mistreating their employee in such a horrendous way. Luckily the Filipino employee’s lawyer, Shoichi Ibusuki, is willing to take on this case and demand a new law to protect future foreign workers from this kind of hostage situation happening again:
“Unfortunately, it’s common practice for companies to take the passports of the foreign workers they employ,
“But to take someone’s passport and then force them to work is forced labour, and should not be allowed under Japanese law…I believe this guideline should become law, and also include a penalty clause. We’re hoping that we can use this lawsuit as an opportunity to convince the government to create a law that would ban the confiscation of passports.”
People are arguing back and forth in various parts of comment sections about the “pros and cons” of employers holding a passport, and here’s my hot take: THERE ARE NO PROS ONLY CONS!
Who supports this shit? Racists, duh
The arguments for it are usually shallow (and often full of racism). For example, the idea that “these foreigners from the Philippines, China, and Korea are all doing illegal things.” No, they’re fucking not. The Filipino woman in question was brought over to be a translator, not a yakuza mastermind. Migrant workers who come from South East Asian countries tend to simply want a job to make money to send back home to their families. That’s it, that’s the grand plan for poor people, it’s not to burn down your house and “ruin the country” you troglodytes.
The other ridiculous argument goes something along the lines of, “Well, it keeps people from running out on contracts!” or “It gives the employers and companies security to keep their people!” It also intimidates and oppresses workers from calling out unjust working practices and isolates them from help, which is exactly the reason (as mentioned previously) it’s a tactic often used by sex traffickers to keep victims from running to the police or the government.
Ever had to make an official police statement in Japan? Ever been harassed by the police? Ever just been black in Japan? The zairyu (residence) card can work as a single ID when you’re white, but God help you if you’re literally any other skin tone. They will demand to see your passport, they will want proof you’re card is legit, and if you don’t prove it? You don’t have to be charged in Japan to be held for 23 days.
Let’s be clear, the Western white people aren’t in danger of getting their passports taken away. Passport withholding and forced labor will generally be a POC issue, and Japanese news doesn’t do well with race issues. Instead, it is focused on “this Filipino lady is suing her employer” angle. It is all about business, it’s not about human rights.
Protecting companies from losing potential employees shouldn’t be the priority here; it should be protecting people from ending up abused or enslaved.
The Illusion of “Safe Japan”
Many people would argue “That’s an exaggeration! Japan is so safe!” but abuses involved with passport theft has been happening in countries around the world. In the UAE, even though there is a law against it, people are still finding themselves held hostage by their employers. There are several viral stories that have hit the news cycle about the unsafe and abusive working conditions. A housemaid (*cough* slave *cough*) was allowed to fall from a balcony after pleading for help. Her Kuwaiti employer let her fall after posting the story to her goddamn Snapchat.
If you watch the video above you’ll find that social media influencer Sondos Alqattan actually argued against better working conditions for Filipino people and holding their passports, because garbage people gotta be garbage.
[H]ow can you have a servant in your house that gets to keep their passport with them? Where are we living? If they ran away and went back to their country, who will refund me?
You can get your refund in hell, Sondos Alqattan
She picked a great time to get on that high horse, too, because it was around the same time of the Joanna Demafelis murder by, you guessed it, her own employers in Kuwait. President Duterte even put a hold on Filipino migrants going to Kuwait and other countries until the laws changed to better protect the workers.
People assume Japan is safe, but that isn’t true for foreign workers. As of March 2019, 759 cases of abuse and 171 deaths are suspected from the Japanese intern program. The Japan Times reported:
The officials revealed that in 28 of the deaths, trainees died due to accidents that occurred on the job, including by drowning after falling off of fishing boats or suffering from heat exhaustion.
Another 59 interns died from sickness. Among them were two trainees who had logged overtime and whose cases were reported to the labor standards inspection office because their working hours were hovering around the life-threateningly high cap specified in Article 36 of the Labor Standards Law.
The fatal cases included 17 suicides, including one case in which a trainee was given only four days off over 3½ months.
We are looking at a program that was specifically designed to bring people over to fill in the gaps from the population decline. These people weren’t part of that conservative nonsense about “coming here looking to steal jobs,” they were invited here by the Japanese government.
Somehow, the arguments that Japan is safe for migrant workers starts to become a rather piss poor flimsy excuse to keep a passport when you realize the working conditions can include “less than minimum wage” and “no time off.”
Oh yeah, and death.
Fine, but what now?
The Filipino woman currently fighting the good fight is all well and good, but she’s far from the only person who is dealing with this massive injustice. Spread the word about this case and start talking about the realities migrant workers face in Japan, because honestly I don’t anyone really gets the full depth of the issue at hand.
We’re talking about more than just one case, we’re talking about systematic failings and injustice that aren’t being seen as “a big deal,” because public perception of these cases is always tinged with racist vitriol and paltry excuses about the perceived image of Japan instead of the reality.
If you want to be more proactive and make a difference, you can donate to POSSE, the non-profit organization that is dedicated to labor rights in Japan. They’re currently doing a donation drive in order to help the Filipino woman, as in paying for lawyer fees and etc. I was seriously disheartened to see the organization wasn’t mentioned in literally any of the news articles I read, and from the looks of the donation site it’s not getting the attention it needs.
If you think your company is doing something illegal or they are holding your documents, you can contact POSSE.
Be aware, you can call on behalf of people you suspect are being abused.
And finally, the best thing you can do? Never, ever give your employer your passport to keep. Give them printed copies and if they fight you on it, leave immediately and call the hotline.
I would also just like to point out, for no particular reason, that the *AdvanceConsul Certified Administrative Procedures Legal Specialists’ Office/ Advanceconsul Immigration Lawyer Office is shady as hell. I don’t know why you would ever pay someone 70,000 yen to change your visa status but pro-tip: DON’T!
*No, I don’t know why Japan Today and other news sites are calling the employers place by this long and convoluted title, but I suspect it’s a direct Japanese to English translation thing.
Last year, I accomplished quite a bit of stuff. In both my professional and personal life, things changed all around for the better. I didn’t get every single thing done that I set out to do, but I took on so many new opportunities that I can’t regret a single moment of it.
At the start of the year, I set out to change my job. Two years ago, I really wanted to try getting out of teaching, but I failed the N2. I got set adrift and in panic mode without a good backup plan. In the end, I settled for an eikaiwa job. The job wasn’t great for me, and I ended up doing other part time work on the side to make it through some rough trials and tribulations of 2018.
Luckily, I got back to teaching at a school. It’s not a direct hire position, but the dispatch company I work for is very interested in retaining employees. The school I’m placed in has some great native English staffed teachers as well as multiple Japanese English teachers. It’s great to work in a bigger school with a bigger pool of people I can talk to. I’ve hung out with people after work often, which is a big change from the eikaiwa style of go home and pass out.
During that time, I also managed to complete an online TEFL course. I always pushed a TEFL course aside because I figured why get one if I didn’t intend to teach forever? But now I know better. Having the certificate is better than not, trust me. If you want to keep getting good teaching jobs, you got to get a leg up on the competition. Also, it’s not that expensive and you can work at your own pace for up to six months.
After the new school year started, I basically lost myself in work. I taught a reading literature class for returnees, and they are a joy. I think with this particular school and this particular curriculum, I feel more fulfilled and like a “real” teacher than ever before. I think if nothing else, I could teach at this particular place for more than a few years. Hell, I might’ve actually found a permanent place to stay until retirement, what a thought!
Yet, 2019 wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I encountered some pretty vitriolic transphobic comments on the blog and vlog. A few death threats were sprinkled along in there, but I didn’t let it get me down. I stood up for what I believed was right, and I will continue to support my trans friends no matter what. I am in the “LGB with the T” camp for life.
After the whole Gold Finger mess, I actually ended up taking my comedy hobby to a new level. I was a headliner in Nagoya…to all of like 10 or 12 people, but still, cool right? I never imagined being asked to do a show, and I never thought I would be getting paid to make jokes on a stage.
I also did more drag and other art performances. I did three or four duets, and then I created a dance group that performed in a huge venue! In between those, I was asked to be a part of a indie movie my friends were making. I was actually on sets and acting. Due to that, I got another role in a sci-fi movie! I can’t reveal much information about those projects, but when they’re released I would love to tell all the tales from behind the scenes.
And of course throughout the year I was volunteering with Stonewall Japan. As both Vice President and Kanto East Block Leader I was attending or organizing meetings, setting up agendas, putting out newsletters, and etc. During the summer time I was asked to get interviewed by news organizations, and I assisted in a couple of op ed pieces on marriage equality in Japan.
By the end of 2019, I also managed to basically complete a novel, which has been on the bucketlist for some time. I thought I would get it published before the end of the year, but it didn’t quite work out that way. It’s fine, though, because I think all my time was well spent.
I don’t regret a single part of 2019. I’m glad I did everything, but next year, I will be changing my focus.
This year is the year for my own projects. I want to move house, get the book published, and so much more. I will still do performances and take some opportunities as they come along, but I also want to make time for myself. I want to be able to spend time at home and relax, not constantly thinking about the next thing I got to do.
It’s simple goals, but they are goals worth having. I’m ready to take everything I learned and move forward in life.
For those of you who are only tuning in now, I’ve had a dream since I was a wee kiddo to be a novelist. Oddly enough, I’ve had this dream since I was about eleven, around the same time I fell in love with Japan. Coincidence?…Probably, yeah.
Anyways, I’ve started on the novel already. I’ve written over 20,000 words, I know how it’s supposed to end, so now I just need to sit down to get it done.
So I’ll be off this site until November! If you want to follow the NaNoWriMo journey, I’m making a new blog for just the novel, because I hate the new format of the NaNoWriMo website with a burning passion.