Saturday, November 3, 2012

"OH, are you gay?!"

I was about to teach a class a month ago, third period, to Japanese junior high third graders (US high school freshmen). Everything was going fine, students talking or playing cards or whatever they do between classes, and then one of them turns to me and says, “OH, are you gay?!”
That was an awkward moment for me.
He was obviously joking, of course. He’s that kind of outspoken silly student, and teachers in Japan are never gay—in fact, no one is really gay here unless they’re on TV or in a metropolis. He could barely contain his laughter, so pleased with himself for being so subversive as to suggest that his teacher was, y’know. Like that.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head as if to say, “Oh, you. You and your crazy ways,” and at the time that seemed like a good compromise, the highest ground between outright lying and coming out. The more I look back on it, though, the less satisfied I am. The more I look back at it, the more I see fear and dishonesty and fractured integrity.
There are reasons for not coming out. There are zero anti-discrimination laws for nonheterosexuals here, and what few laws there are for workers in general don’t really apply to foreigners; there’s a good chance that if I’d been honest with my student I would have gotten fired (and consequently deported) because of it. Even if that hadn’t happened, It would have made the rest of the school year pretty uncomfortable. I judge this from the way my loud and mischievous student’s teacher apologized, mortified that his student had done something so insulting as question my heterosexuality, even jokingly.
These reasons do not, in my mind, excuse me for pretending to be straight. I’m not straight. If there’s anything I learned from BYU and Mormonism, it’s that pretending to be straight is a violence to my self. I was raised on stories of men being crucified or burned alive or thrown into lions’ dens rather than violate their truth. My ancestors walked across the Great Plains for their truth, and I’m not willing to suffer a few months of extremely polite awkwardness or, at worst, an early plane ride back to California?
To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of this experience even after a month. I don’t know that I’d answer differently now, even though I’m pretty sure in my head that that would be the moral, honest thing to do. There are concerns of language and appropriateness and privacy that I haven’t been able to work out.
I do get some comfort from John, though, who lied about knowing Christ. Sometimes we’re just too weak to do the right thing.


This week, I’m going to decide whether or not I want to stay closeted here in Japan, and why.


I’m pleased to be writing for BtS. I think it's pretty awesome, and I think I’m pretty awesome, and I hope you'll think I'm pretty awesome too. I know you probably have a long list of other blogs to read, but if you have a moment, I'd like to know what you think of this. And this post.


  1. That video was hilarious. Made even more so by the fact that I was on the phone with my mother so I kept having to turn it down.
    And I'm glad you have joined the blog. I can't wait to hear more about your life. :)

  2. It sounds like the laws in Japan are similar to those here in NC, except I can't be deported. I came out. I've been told that being out makes it harder to find people who are willing to date me since they are afraid about losing their jobs. I look forward to reading your posts.

    1. That's very interesting. I hadn't thought about it in terms of dating people who aren't out. Are you happier out than you were not out?

    2. I'm sorry I missed your question. I started dating a gay in early November and am very happy.

      I started coming out last May and initially was happy - had good support and responses. As the news settled some of that support waned. I was pretty down by October. I was coming out of that funk when I realized a guy I met in August was interested in dating. He felt he needed to give me some space since I was just coming out.

      He has been out for years. We are recognized as a gay couple. I have been pleasantly surprised at the acceptance. My friends/family who are not Mormon or Baptist are happy for us. Some of the Mormons and Baptists are coming along.

  3. I bust a gut every time I watch it.

  4. Welcome! Great post.

    "These reasons do not, in my mind, excuse me for pretending to be straight. I’m not straight. If there’s anything I learned from BYU and Mormonism, it’s that pretending to be straight is a violence to my self. I was raised on stories of..."

    Amen, brother! Fantastic paragraph, right there.

    I'll be interested to hear what you come up with this week. If you decide to be more open, then that will serve to put more pressure on me to come out over here, doing which I am long overdue... *sigh*. There's something about that self-violence that's frustratingly addicting, at least in my experience.

    1. I'll be sure to let you know next Matturday. I mean, Saturday. In my next post. As for you, you come out when you come out. You're the only one who can weigh the consequences and rewards.