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Queer Japan.

Queer Japan * Translated and edited by Barbara books Summerhawk, Cheiron MaMahill McDonald * New Victoria * $16.95

Doseiai--same-sex love between men--evokes intense ridicule in Japan. And since saving face is paramount in the national culture, most Japanese queers feel that being out is out of the question.

"Gay bashing is not so evident," says Satoru Itoh, 46, "but the psychological pressure is severe." Itoh, a university professor and author, tells of the night a man in children's clothes pounded on his door, demanding to come inside. Turned out the man wasn't a lunatic, but a TV comedian with camera crew in tow. "You and your partner can't have children," the man mocked, "so we thought we'd give you a child for the night."

Undeterred, Itoh and his partner give lectures on the gay experience at high schools and colleges throughout Japan--and he is one of 16 men and women who bear witness in Queer Japan: Personal Stories of Japanese Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals.

The book travels across genders and generations, with tales of elders alongside those of newly minted activists such as Kayoko Shirakawa, 34, who in 1995 took part in Japan's first lesbian kissin--a street demonstration held at Christmastime, which has romantic rather than religious connotations in that country. "As Christmas Eve draws closer, lesbians are drawn into boring discussions about dates between girlfriends and boyfriends," says Shirakawa, adding that the word lesbian rarely appears outside Japanese pornography. "We made a parody of Christmas songs, making it a point to use the word lesbian as much as possible."

To find out more about Queer Japan, visit
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Vaillancourt, Daniel
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 7, 1999
Previous Article:Better halves.
Next Article:Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.

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