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.
It started with just the news. Everyone at my school murmured on Wednesday how Typhoon Hagibis might still swirl away from us. Faxai didn’t hit Tokyo last time, and most teachers were hoping it would just go the hell away. I even said as much on Facebook that I was torn. On the one hand, I would’ve loved to have a day to sleep in, but on the other hand I needed to finish and print off my midterms.
By Thursday night, it was obvious from all the various weather radar sites that the Typhoon #19 was heading straight for us. Most of my Japanese co-workers and friends weren’t nervous, but also were a little nervous. It’s the kind of hesitant nervousness that comes with the years of experience in living through various typhoons. Nobody wanted to seem like they really cared, because who cared about typhoons really? Shrug, nervous laughter…check the radar at your desk when no one is looking.
However, the news proclaimed this typhoon would be unlike any other typhoon we’ve seen in the past decade. It wasn’t slowing down like most typhoons do, and it was going to cover most of the country with torrential rain and whipping winds. By noon on Friday, my school announced there couldn’t be any school on Saturday. JR East was already planning to shut down trains by 13:00!
It was kind of shocking. Up until this point, trains usually would shut down at 16:00/17:00. We all kind of expected the same time frame this go around, with most teachers expecting half a class day. Nope! We were told to not come to the school at all! Even full time and homeroom teachers were exempt.
A co-worker and I planned on a possible typhoon video game day. I would go over to hers, and we’d keep each other company through the storm.
“If the trains aren’t crazy,” she said.
“Yeah, we’ll have to see in the morning.” I shrugged and checked my phone as it buzzed again with another news pop up. “But it looks like the trains will be up and running? It should be fine.”
“Yeah, it should be.”
It’ll all be fine. Everything will work out. We’ll be OK. These storms never really hit Tokyo…
All these little reassurances we kept telling ourselves, because in actuality we weren’t entirely sure. It reminded me of Kentucky in the fall, with tornado season bringing hail, sleet, thunder, lightning, winds, and that blasted anticipation.
I hate the waiting of it, very similar to that sensation of when you’re just about to get on a roller coaster. You’re waiting in line, and waiting, and then you’re standing at the gates. Suddenly, you’re at the loading dock, and you’ve got to take that last step.
A big distinctive difference between the two is that I can choose not to get on a roller coaster, but I cannot choose when a typhoon is going to hit or how bad it will be when it does arrive. My anxiousness wasn’t at all helped by the charge in the air. If you’ve ever lived in a place that gets storms, then you know that charge. It’s that taste of rain on your tongue, the electric sizzle that’s just there, waiting to bust into action. As the barometer gets ever higher, that tenseness wraps around you and squeezes.
As I left for home on Friday night, I decided to stop by Don Quijote. I think everyone was feeling it. People were panicking, frantically calling their spouses and family over cell phones. The bread was gone. The milk was gone. The frozen foods were gone. Oddly enough, the canned food section still had a plethora of beans, tomato sauces, and etc. I shook my head and grabbed a bunch of canned chick peas, red kidney beans, mushrooms, and peas.
Perishables would go bad very quickly in the event of an actual natural disaster. My mother taught me a long time ago that in a true survival situation, go for the cans. At home I already had emergency water and a first aid kit. I grabbed some batteries for flashlights (also in the emergency bag), and miraculously got a few bag of snacks for the maybe typhoon party.
I walked home quick. I knew I would need to cover my windows with cardboard. Even though my sliding windows were thick and made to withstand the full force of a typhoon, I knew my neighbors had a horrible habit of never taking their potted plants or laundry poles inside when a storm was set to hit us. Along my walk, I saw many people taping up their windows, pulling down shutters, or putting up actual wood planks like I’d seen in the news for hurricanes in Florida.
As soon as I got home, I grabbed the duct tape and cut up cardboard boxes to fit the huge Leopalace windows. I was a little too short to get all the way up to the tip top, but I figured it was a good enough job. The cardboard was just meant to keep the shattered glass from coming into the apartment, anyways, not be actual support.
I was sending out texts and messages as I worked. My friends were batting down the hatches all over the country. I let my family back home what my situation was and my plans. Thankfully, the work exhausted me enough that I could sleep.
In the morning, I was hit with a surprise. Even though JR East announced trains would be shut down by 13:00, apparently subways and other private train lines were already shutting down before then. My co-worker asked me not to try and get over to her place.
“I don’t want you to get stuck half way!” she told me over LINE.
To put things into perspective, last time a typhoon knocked out trains, JR East blundered the execution of their plans a little bit. The train company shut down trains at 17:00 on a Sunday, and promised that trains would resume at 8:00 the next Monday. It caused a lot of havoc, with people waiting in lines for hours to try and get to work or school. This time around, JR East and other companies weren’t taking any chances. They went with being overly prepared and simply shut it all down.
I checked both the train and bus schedules online. Sure enough, I realized that it wasn’t a guaranteed trip. I could very well end up stuck. I agreed with her and decided to just wait it out at my place. Left to my own devices, I decided to clean like a maniac.
The news of a tornado hitting Chiba was the first sign that Hagibis was definitely not going to be like any other typhoon. I noticed it hitting Japan’s Twitter News first. It was something to see, just this huge twister taking out buildings. The first confirmed death for Hagibis came from that tornado.
There was a tornado that hit Chiba. This storm isn't a joke. Listen to the alarms and if you're told to evacuate, DO IThttps://t.co/JGRETbQdYj
My phone buzzed and sent alarms at midday to inform me in Japanese on the Hagibis’ progress. Luckily, I can read Japanese kanji to a degree that I can glance at the emergency alerts to figure out where the alerts are supposed to cover and which ones I can ignore. I knew other people weren’t so well versed, so I stopped cleaning and went to work.
I sent out alerts to some Stonewall Japan pages so people could get information in English. I also sent out Tweets of English information. A lot of J-Vloggers and bloggers were doing the same, trying to get information out there so people wouldn’t be caught unaware about the situation.
NHK World was doing live coverage in English, which was a move I applauded. I appreciated that Japan Times and Japan Today kept regularly updating their information as well. I was glad to see that within our small foreigner community everyone was rallying to try and prevent another tragedy.
Then, the earthquake hit. At first, I just thought to myself, “Oh wow, the wind is really picking up!” When my picture frames began to bounce against the wall and my ceiling light swayed, I realized it wasn’t the wind. I ducked under my table just to be safe, because it felt like not a big deal…but I wan’t 100% sure because of the storm. It came and went, and I marked it as a 3 on the scale.
Sure enough, it was a 4 coming from Chiba and a 3 in my area. Called it! All the same, it didn’t help my already frayed state of mind. Three natural disaster-like events in one day, and all so close. I moved my emergency bag to sit right at the front door, and threw some clothes into my other backpack. Just to be super, duper safe.
In the early evening, the wind hit hard. I checked out my front door intermittently just to see what the wind and rain looked like outside. At one point, I opened my door and saw the sky was green. I promptly shut the door and said, “Not today, Satan.”
For those of you who don’t know, green skies mean bad thunderstorms and tornadoes are inbound, as in “you got minutes to find shelter, bruh.” I got lucky, though, no tornadoes for my area. The rain came of and on, off and on, either completely soaking the whole area or trailing off. I listened to it in between forcing myself to just relax and watch Netflix on my laptop.
I knew I couldn’t do anything, not yet anyway. My flood map showed a low chance of flooding. My alerts for evacuation were for the elderly, not for me, and not even for my specific area in Tokyo. I continued to retweet and put up messages I thought were useful, but otherwise I couldn’t do anything else. I texted my coworkers and checked in on a few friends, but it was just a waiting game.
Typhoon Higibis finally arrived at 21:00, and it hit hard. The rain suddenly dumped down, just swish, swish, swishing all over the place with the winds. My windows knocked a bit in their settings, but didn’t leak or break at all. I refreshed my flood maps and kept reading the evacuation alerts as they came. Honestly, I knew by that point it was useless to try to evacuate anywhere. If the river near my apartment overflowed, I wouldn’t be able to run out by this point. I had to just kind of hope I was making the right call to stay.
A few reminders as it starts getting darker:
– Even if the wind or rain seems to get weaker, don't assume it's safe to head outside yet as it can pick up again with extreme force in an instant.
– Don't go outside to take photos or footage of the damage for social media feeds.
Regardless, I move my bags up into the loft area just in case a flood did decide to hit. All my electronics were charging up there anyway, so it just made sense. I stayed up in the loft, eating the snacks meant for a party, and watching the news. I heard about the community center that denied the homeless man shelter. It sickened me to think of someone getting turned away to sit on the street with just an umbrella and a “gambarre!”
At least two homeless were refused entrance to a shelter in Taito Ward in Tokyo during the typhoon because they couldn’t provide a permanent address. The Ward justified exposing these ppl to death by saying they were prioritizing “ward residents.” https://t.co/1yvz8Ymu5I
And then an alert I never saw before popped up from Yahoo News. Puzzled, I searched for the kanji and my eyes went wide when I saw, “Volanic Eruption Warning,” come up. I thought, “Surely not Fuji?!” and nope, not Mt. Fuji. It was Sakurajima, all the way across the country. I was mad. I lived nowhere near there, why did my phone send me an alert for Kyushu?!
Around midnight, the winds decreased in velocity, although the rain stayed. My flood map and radar showed me that my area in particular was going to be spared from flood waters. To the west of me, dams were getting opened and the rivers overflowed to prevent dams breaking. To the east, a city not even that far away from me was being told to get to higher ground because the coastal lines were no longer safe. Somehow, I was sandwiched into a safe pocket that needed no evacuation or run away option.
I finally let out that metaphorical breath I’d been holding. The red parts of the radar shifted upwards to Saitama, and even though I was still in the yellow bits, I decided to call it a night. I sent my family messages that I survived and didn’t need to evacuate. If anything changed in the morning, I would call. I sent my last messages and so on, and finally went to sleep.
I got startled awake two or three times that night from my phone alarms. Once again, though, these alarms were meant for Sendai. Sendai is no where near me. I glanced at the kanji and rolled over. Just as it always tends happen, I fell into nightmares because my sleep got interrupted. I couldn’t remember them, just the general feeling that I was suffocating.
Finally, the next morning, I woke up to sunlight and the sound of children laughing. I checked my phone. All of my friends were safe. My coworkers were good. No need to worry. I let out a breath. I could breathe normally again.
I took down the cardboard. I put the grab bag back on the shelf. I made myself breakfast and a nice big pot of coffee. I knew I was supremely lucky.
As I scrolled through the news reports, I knew it could have been so much worse. My river was one of many on a system, placed about three or four dams away from the coast. Thank God for human ingenuity and for advanced weather warning technology, otherwise the death toll would’ve been catastrophic.
As it stands, about 70 people have lost their lives to the storm. Homes and damage to cities are being rebuilt and repaired, but there are bridges just gone. The tornado in Chiba plus the typhoon hit an already suffering part of Japan that was affected by the last big typhoon. Stories are coming in that reflect how Hagibis really was a horrible storm, but so many people were sparred because of the advanced warnings.
Now, some people are claiming the preparations were “too much” or an “overreaction,” but I disagree completely. It was easy to feel the might of that storm, and all it would’ve taken was one broken dam and a city would’ve been completely wiped off the map. Evacuations were necessary. Shutting downs trains was necessary. It was all absolutely necessary. The death toll isn’t this low because Hagibis was nothing; it is that low because there was a chance we could’ve lost everything.
Thankfully, I’m fine, but some people are not as lucky. Donations are being accepted for rebuilding efforts by the Japan NPO Center and Peace Winds. If you’re interested, the Japan Red Cross accepts monetary donations or they are always in need of blood donors. Please be careful and don’t give to any kickstarter or gofundme that claims to give funds to people in Japan! Kickstarter and Gofundme aren’t countries on the list that can start fundraising through those sites.
For those of you unaware, I’ve got my own Facebook Page. Today I was going over to post my previous blog post up on it when Facebook decides to pop up with, “Add a category so more people can find you!”
I sighed and went over there. Generally, I hate these stupid pop ups, because those damn message numbers won’t go away until you do as the Facebook gods command. I make my way over and try to put in something else.
When I started typing, I figured, “Alright fine, I’ll put in Japan or Japanese.”
Nope. The only option available was…Japanese restaurant. Nanidafuq? I was very confused, but figured whatever, I’ll just put my own category in. On most other websites, you can customize your category, kind of like creating your own tags and categories on blogs and vlogs.
NOPE, not allowed. “Only specific categories can be used!” It says, taunting me.
I gave up, and then I figured, “Well that’s a little racist, but whatever, I’ll just type in LGBT or LGBTQ and be done with it.”
As it turns out, LGBTQ isn’t in there AT ALL. It’s not even listed under the “Causes” section.
I was flabbergasted. Surely it had to be under something? I scrolled down. Generally speaking, LGBTQ gets lumped in under “community” or “causes” on most websites. Under community organizations I found the goddamned armed forces, but not LGBTQ.
I could believe it. I searched for gay, lesbian, trans, bi, ANYTHING in the umbrella. Gay Bar was literally the only option I could find. At this point in the game, I got a bit pissed off.
It almost seems deliberate. Let’s think about this for a second, this is a company that has been called out for not doing enough to protect people from fake news, neo-nazis, and etc. And then I come to find out that there are literally NO options for LGBTQ spaces in the page options?
You might be going like, “What’s the big deal?” Well the big deal is that without that option, search engines won’t bring people to those pages. If you search for “LGBTQ resources in New York” you won’t get any links for the Facebook Groups unless it’s in the title. Searches means money, searches means awareness, and in some cases it means finding the right resources if a teen kid kicked out of our house by homophobic parents.
I think I got really pissed off when I reached the “website” section, which is under “Other.” It lists “E-commerce,” like for real?! And above that is “Vitamins/Supplements” but screw that huge population that needs all the support it can get for visibility and help.
And I might not have even been this pissed off if I didn’t know that Facebook has it’s own Facebook LGBTQ Page! That is some bullshit. Why does this company get to profit off of LGBTQ people, but then turn around and erase it from its search options?
I’m not even accepting, “Well, it must just be an oversight.” I don’t believe it for a second. This lack of LGBTQ in categories feels deliberate. I cannot be the first person to have noticed and brought it up.
And maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have been so mad if I could’ve just put my own category in, but I wasn’t allowed. Only Facebook approved categories allowed, because screw you that’s why.
This needs to change, and there does also need to be better categories for people on an international level. There are other countries, languages, and cultures that deserve to have their communities represented and found. The fact you only get restaurant options for diversity is appalling and disgusting.
When I was about 12 years old, I wrote my first book. Well, it was a novella really (I think my memory says about 30,000 words). I was absolutely thrilled with it at the time. Looking back, I’m fairly certain my English teacher must’ve been a little traumatized and horrified that a 12 year old girl was, well, kind of writing pornographic content for an official assignment.
My dream was to be romance writer, because I loved the idea of romantic love. Someone who is always there for you, someone who never betrayed you, and someone who would save you from your own flaws…Romance novels don’t exactly set you up for realistic expectations in relationships, but I digress.
Then, I fell in love with fantast and science fiction. I plowed through the entirety of Lord of the Rings, Animorphs, Enders Game series, Harry Potter, Inuyasha, Fushigi Yugi, just pick your choice of late 90’s and early 2000’s manga really, and because of that I changed my mind. I would be a fantasy writer, or a sci fi writer instead. There would be books with romantic elements, but they’d be a bit more realistic.
But then in high school, I dove into horror and mystery. I was going to the public library and just checking out literally anything with vampires or murder in the plot. Interview with a Vampire, the Vampire Diaries (I liked it before it was cool, kids), hated Nancy Drew though, and just kind…snowballed from there.
Suddenly, I realized I kind of liked anything fictional. I didn’t like mystery as much as the others, but I wanted to read everything. In addition, I kind of wanted to write everything. You might even notice that problem with my blog. One day I’m talking about super important LGBTQIA+ issues, and then the next I’m doing a think piece about teaching students.
But I also got discouraged. A lot of my English teachers would read my work, and then they wouldn’t really be excited as I was for anything I wrote. I got the feeling that other students (a few of whom I know actually just kind of plagiarized their work, by the way) were often more encouraged and well liked by the English teachers. I guess what I’m saying is I never had anyone besides my mother and brother who believed in this dream, so it was hard to think I could have a future in it during high school.
When I got into university, I figured I would try to get myself published in something before I graduated. I knew I would have to buckle down and study hard, but I continually worked on various manuscripts throughout the four years I went there. I was a part of two small writing groups even, trying my best to keep this going. I wrote so much stuff, but none of it felt like it was “ready” or “polished” or whatever.
It didn’t help that, once again, there was no professor or anyone who thought my writing was any good. I was passable, as in I was able to make papers and submit them and get good enough grades that I could pass classes. At the same time, if I ever mentioned the other things I was trying to write, I kind of got dismissed.
My poetry wasn’t “on the level” that the other students could produce. My short stories seemed lack that “thing” they were looking for, and I don’t know, I kind of gave up showing anyone above other students what I was working on. Oddly enough, the writing groups and my own roommates kept me going on writing.
I want to be clear, my professors weren’t monsters by any stretch of the imagination. I learned a lot from them on how to write better. I was forced to read and write outside of my comfort zone often, and it really made an impact on how I viewed fiction as remnants of history, not just stories. I never realized there were whole debates and massive conferences about certain novels or works of literature because they were integral to the history of certain genres.
My professors also taught me something that no one really taught how to do well before: self-edit. Up until university, I think most of the time “editing” for middle and high school teachers mostly focused on spelling and grammar. I get it, it’s hard to teach kids how to edit more for style and tone. As a middle and high school teacher, believe me I do get it. All the same, all of my professors were merciless in the rewriting process, and I’m super thankful for all their effort. Now I write and re-write and re-write and revise all the damn time.
By the time graduation arrived, I managed to publish one poem in the school literary journal. It was about my grandfather, and I was very proud of it. I also write in the school newspaper all four years, although in my head that “didn’t really count,” and I was a page editor in my senior year. Still, I hated myself a little bit for not getting a book out there.
Then I came to Japan, and honestly blogging was something I thought would just be nice to try out. It was a good hobby to have, and I figured maybe one day I would publish a book about life in Japan or something. I still kept writing here and there, but having a full time job means of course there is less time for novel endeavors.
I kept saying “Oh I’ll definitely do it this year!” and “I’ll get it done by (insert date here)!” But it kept not happening, and not happening, and not happening.
I wish I could say something profound happened, like someone just snapped me into talking about the book or I came to this amazing realization, but that’s not how it came to be. I just read randomly online one day on a Facebook writing group that if you’re an adult, there’s never going to be a “right” time to get published. Just do it or you’ll regret it later. And then I read somewhere else that talking about your book helps you to write your book, and it helps keep you accountable to an audience.
It’s all kind of accumulated to a point now where I’m also, well, pretty goddamn sure my writing is worthy of garnering some kind of audience. I don’t need to be that next big thing. Basically, I’m thirty and I don’t feel like I have to prove myself to anyone anymore. I’m not asking permission, either, I’m self-publishing and doing it all myself. Fuck the system (insert fist pump here). I’ve never been a person who has waited around to be told where my life should be going, why should this any different?
And so here we go. I’m going to write a novel, there is no deadline. It’s happening at some point, hopefully this year. I’ll be working on it, you’ll be getting to read excerpts and things as I go. Enjoy!