Campaign Promotes Same-Sex Hand Holding in Japan, Land of No PDA

In Depth

Twitter based campaign 27GO promotes public hand holding amongst same-sex couples in Japan on the 27th of each month.

One of the main aspects of the campaign is to solicit photographs of hand holding from the LGBT+ community in Japan, both Japanese and expatriate. Pictures may be tweeted at the 27GO twitter account and then these tweets will be retweeted:

Japan holds not only cultural disapproval of same-sex couples’ public displays of affection, but is rather disapproving of PDAs as a whole. What makes it difficult for LGBT+ persons in Japan (sexual minorities, as we prefer to call the alphabet soup domestically) to challenge cisheteronormativity is the fact that everyone’s PDAs are supposed to be invisible. Individuals are assumed to be cisgender and straight in daily life and a good portion of the evidence which would provide a counter to this idea is frowned upon for couples of any gender combination.

Mass scale protests, riots, and vocal intellectual movements were common in Japan in the 1910s and 1920s, but Japanese civil rights movements post-World War II have not been known for being very overt or direct. Directness is considered very problematic in Japanese society. Many of the activities western civil rights advocates take for granted as necessary are considered too rude for Japan. Many of the arguments of respectability policing, tone policing, and anger by minority groups are rejected by Japanese minorities. This is not the way things are done in Japan, and the rules are different, you will be told by the very people struggling for rights and recognition.

Civil rights are won by slow negotiation and normalisation. At first glance, it would seem that 27GO‘s goal is to be blatant in the hand-holders’ sexual orientation, but I don’t think so. It’s a very quiet, very individual (well, couple-based) form of social protest. I believe its goal to be change through visibility which fits nicely into the normalisation history of civil rights movements in Japan.

I find that the sexual minorities community in Japan is working on this normalisation, and of all of the various subgroups in Japan, it is one of the most welcoming of expatriates and non-Yamato/Jomon members of Japanese society. You will find that as long as you are willing to work within the social framework of Japan to effect change, and not practice what amounts to neo-colonialism by expecting, advancing, and pushing western advocacy frameworks, you are welcome as a non-Japanese person to participate in the sexual minorities community as I do both in person and online.

27GO wrist bands can be picked up at Japan’s Pride event Tokyo Rainbow Week’s most active day, April 27th, 2014.

Images via 27GO/Twitter.

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