I, Faggot

Faggot, freak, queer and poofter are slurs that I choose to embrace.
I know some folk eschew them, and that’s fine.
Since the age of 6, I was called a girl, pansy, fairy, poof, nancy, etc.

(Note the misogyny – many slurs used against homosexuals are also misogynistic.)

My early responses were:

‘Takes one to know one,’


‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.’

But the words were hurting me, and I knew I was different, though I didn’t understand it.

When I finally accepted myself as homosexual, “came out,” I chose to accept these terms, to reclaim ownership of them.

I am homosexual.

I am gay.

Yeah – and also happy.

Being queer is an act of subversion for me.

I will call myself a faggot.

By reclaiming the slurs slung at me, I not only found shared identity – I could finally disarm my abuser.

Now, when someone shouts “faggot” at me – my response is along the lines “Yeah – I am – I’m a big poofter – the biggest faggot there is.”

I am a big faggot. I do loads of shockingly homosexual things. And I do them very well.

There is no sting in the slurs – they are mine – the insults are powerless – the abuser is generally confused.

I can laugh – I am happy and proud to be homosexual.

Faith matters

The same-sex marriage debate in Australia is heating up and this week saw even more ignorant and bigoted opinion pieces in the mainstream press.

One I read mentioned “life choice” which particularly riled me, as I tweeted quite exhaustively.

I chose to move to Japan, but I never chose to be gay.

I chose to accept myself for who I am.

Nothing more.

The piece stirred up memories from my Christian years and I thought it would be worth writing about it.

The purpose is partly to say “I tried to pray the gay away” but mainly just to record my experiences.

I’m more sensitive about religious issues than many, and try not to disrespect people’s beliefs. We all have our own worldview, and many of us are keen to share it with others. I’m as guilty as the next person.

What I’m not intending to write is a criticism of Christian beliefs or whatever. I experienced a wide range of levels of belief and they can’t be easily grouped together. But obviously less open-minded believers may take offense to what I write. I can’t help that.

I was raised in a very lightly Christian household. Some Sunday School, church at Easter and Christmas, a children’s Bible. Of course it left an impression but I wasn’t really a believer.

In high school I became close friends with a Christian teacher and in the course of events I became Christian at around age 15.

Now the gay part: I’d had strong same-sex attraction from a very young age, and also acted in ways unbecoming of my gender from early on. I did ballet, dressed in tutus, played with dolls, and most of my friends were girls. I was fixated with photos of semi-naked muscularos and had relentless sexual urges after male friends from the onset of puberty. None of this came to fruition. I never encountered another gay in my teens and then became Christian, and started attending a fundamentalist church, which put the brakes on indulging any sexual urges outside of marriage. I harassed many non-believing friends for their sexual behaviour. I’m sorry for this now.

I attended church services weekly (often two) as well as Bible study group. I helped at the church kid’s club.

TBH, one reason was that the kid’s club leader was a total spunk. Probably the hottest Christian I knew. It was amazing to spend time with him. Not sure if he knew how much I idolised him. I’m guessing he did.

In church I gravitated towards guys. Guys who I fancied especially. This was easy, because same-sex relationships were considered edifying and kept you from the temptation of getting too close to the opposite sex. Boy’s camps, men’s prayer breakfasts: for me it was heaven.

All the male bonding I could hope for, albeit accompanied by the frustration of coitus interruptus.

I left many Bible study sessions, I read very widely and deeply. Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer became my idol.

In university I couldn’t wait to join the Christian group. I attended their orientation camp: no wine, song, and women – just more Bible study, prayer, and song 

Oh, and hot, earnest young Christian men.

I heard my first sermon condemning masturbation (though the word was never spoken).

I eventually was on the committee of the university Christian group and quite involved in the politics.

I also became close friends with some really spunky, earnest young Christian men.

Many one-on-one prayer sessions followed. I experienced a lot of erections and precum in these sessions. Thanks guys. I remember wrestling a couple of the guys and doing healthy activities together like swimming. My mind was always in the gutter.

Midway through uni I took a one year working holiday in Japan, and was baptised here aged 20, before joining a very conservative Japanese church (women with head scarves, etc.)

All this time with strong crushes on many guys especially at church, none of which were fulfilled

Later, back in Australia, I went to Bible college part-time while working, studying church history (can highly recommend reading in this area. Quite faith-destroying.) and mission theory. I planned to become a missionary in Japan or elsewhere.

Through all this I was aware of my attraction to men and very conscious of the “fact” that my sexual urges were not only bad (“he whomever so much as lusts after a women commits adultery with her”) but being same-sex, my feelings were an abomination. Homosexuality was condemned quite openly in the churches I attended and quite frequently. I prayed ceaselessly to have these urges taken away, as they were a “thorn in my side.”

I have my first sexual encounter aged 23, and it was accompanied with an incredible sense of guilt and repentance. Such incidents were repeated 3 times over the next 2 years.

Finally, aged 25 or 26, I met a guy I fell for. I hunted him down, virtually, as rumours at work were rife that there was a gay guy and I wanted desperately to meet him.

Our initial sexual encounters were followed by intense guilt and at church I would pray in desperation to be forgiven and to have these urges curbed.

But during breaks between hymns, all I could think of was him.

I was also kind of dating a lovely Christian woman, but my true urges lay with my weekend boyfriend. The contrast in my emotions was stark.

In the end this was tearing me apart.

I was torn between this self-loathing and a desperate desire for intimacy.

I realised this self-hate was destroying me.

I could not live this double life any longer.

I had gone through various doubts in my beliefs for a few years already by this point, and eventually I left the church, which I believed would never accept me with my same-sex desires, which I now knew were an inextricable part of my existence. The fundamentalist brand of Christianity I believed in did not allow for such liberal views as acceptance of homosexuality. It was all or nothing for me, and so I threw out the baby Jesus with the baptismal font water.

This is it. I have nothing else to add.

Why Dutch?

Why learn Dutch?
This is the first question that springs to everyone’s lips (whether Dutch or not) when I describe my latest venture.

Currently I’m mid-point through a two-week introductory course in Amsterdam, with four hours of class a day.
Two weeks is short, I know.
At the end of this (plus two weeks here not taking classes), I still won’t be able to understand or say so much.
My class is small (total 5 students) which is nice. Everyone gets a chance to talk and ask questions.
My four classmates all have Dutch partners, and just moved here one or two months ago. This is a good reason to try to learn any language.
At language schools I attended in France, I can only recall one student in my class (out of a dozen) who was learning French for this reason.
Do Dutch men make better lovers than the French? That’s for me to know…

One reason I wanted to study the Dutch is because I have a good Dutch friend I have here. I try to visit him whenever I am in Europe. A crazy soul-mate. He has a social life on overload, so I am often in all Dutch gatherings. This is great fun.
As anyone who has been to the Netherlands knows, everyone here speaks good English, and most are very willing to. (This lulls people into thinking there is no benefit in spending time to learn Dutch.
Yes, at social gatherings people happily speak to me in English, but I miss most of the content of the group discussions. I plan on coming back again in future. I don’t want to wear out my welcome. Long-term expats who haven’t made an attempt to learn the local language (in any country) irk me. And I don’t want to be like that myself.
When traveling, I always try to study a bit of the local language (listened to podcasts before visiting Cambodia, carried a text book in Indonesia and went to language school in Thailand). I have only retained a smattering of phrases from these ventures, but it enriched my experiences in those countries, and I still encounter words from these languages occasionally. (Earlier this year I worked at the Cambodian Embassy in Tokyo for a few hours, and was able to use the few words I remembered.)

The second reason for my learning Dutch is a linguistic interest in it. After telling myself for 3 years that English is just poorly pronounced French. Now I’ve come to wonder if it is actually drunk Dutch.
At times in the Netherlands, someone was speaks to you and for a moment you tune-in, thinking they are speaking in English.
There is much familiar vocabulary: “dik” and “dun” are examples which come to mind (thick & thin). Can you imagine a native English speaker living far from London pronouncing “thin” in a way which might sound like “dun”? I’m encountering words like IMG_20151114_142521this constantly, and now that the writing system makes more sense, I notice signs around town and can often guess the meaning of words.
One dilemma this week was the numbering system which, like German says “six and forty” for 46. Yet the nursery rhyme ‘Sing a Song of Six Pence’ came to mind: with the line “four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.” It occurred to me that English perhaps once had such a system (and it turns out that it did). Finding these connections has been fascinating.

Studying other languages always broadens my horizons. It also gives me insights into my own language, when I encounter different nuances and systems for classifying and describing our surroundings and experiences. I am reminded of how limited and subjective my world perspective can be.

Death in mid-Suma: B-Grade Sight-seeing in Kansai

Osaka B-grade sightseeing

Tsutenkaku通天閣 in Osaka near the zoo is great for a taste of retro Osaka, if that’s of interest. Very lively area but also very…dated. People who like their sight-seeing squeaky clean and brand-spanking new will get a shock.

700 yen to climb the tower for views of Osaka including views of the high rise centre – without being in said high rise centre…

If okonomiyaki お好み焼き is your thing, Osaka also has negi ネギ焼き which is similar but made with spring onions instead of cabbage. The best place is Yamamoto Negiyaki (http://www.negiyaki-yamamoto.com) and the main branch is at Juso十三 one stop from Umeda/Osaka梅田・大阪. This is often a queue, and they don’t allow photos in the restaurant, but it’s hardcore—deep Osaka

Kobe Backstreets:

You can travel from central Osaka to central Kobe in roughly 20 minutes on either JR, Hankyu 阪急 or Hanshin阪神 to Sannomiya (written 三宮 or 三ノ宮for JR). They arrive at the same point, take roughly same time and the fares are similar.


In terms of sight-seeing, I hesitate to suggest. Kobe for me is a “lifestyle city”—great to live here, but not sure where to take people who visit. It’s a bit like Yokohama 横浜  in many ways–there’s Chinatown (Nanking-machi 南京町) near Motomachi 元町 and there’s some old Western-style houses 異人館 up the hill from Sannomiya 三宮 at Kitano北野.

Sannomiya 三宮 is the heart of Kobe. Kobe Station (JR) 神戸駅 is not the centre (it’s the pre-WWII centre) but it IS close to the Harborland development, a more modern shopping mall, by the harbour.


Arima Onsen 有馬温泉hot springs is only 30 minutes from Sannomiya, I cannot tell you anything about Arima. Must be nice – up in the hills, which are alive with the sound of onsen

My personal interest in Kobe (as with many cities) is the grungy/retro side. The city is dying back (as is much of Japan) and the decay just outside the city centre has a quaint Showa-era feel, with funky shops and eateries. The low-life highlights for me include the shopping arcade below the JR train tracks between Sannomiya, Motomachi and Kobe stations 高架下 (locals call this series of 7 arcades Motokohモトコー), and Shinkaichi 新開地.

Another place I love is Higashiyama-dori markets東山通市場 near Minatogawa station 湊川 for old “wet markets”—grocery shopping the old-fashioned way.

For hot springs, I can recommend Tarumi Taihei-no-yu垂水温泉太平のゆ in Tarumi垂水 which is adjacent to the Outlet Park (identical to every other outlet park in Japan) Views from here over Awaji Straits淡路海峡 and of the bridge to Awaji Island淡路島

The nearby Suma 須磨 beach area is also cool and groovy. For something completely different, the port town and seafood markets of Akashi 明石 are also not far from Kobe and the tamago-yaki 玉子焼き which is the takoyaki たこ焼き (octopus balls) of Akashi is extraordinary there. It is served with a dipping broth, and is known as “Akashi-yaki” everywhere except in Akashi.

Footloser in Tokyo

When I first came to Japan, in 1990, every foreigner and her tanuki carried a copy of “Foot-Loose in Tokyo” by Jean Pearce.
Subtly subtitled, “The Curious Traveler’s Guide to the 29 Stages of the Yamanote Line”, I was sure this book was my key to unlocking a time-slip to old Edo.
I was determined to find the last vestiges of Yoshiwara, mostly.
But unfortunately, I was banished to Machida, living madly far from the crowd.
On the rare opportunities I went to “town”, I was with my host sister, or scurrying to church.
There was little chance to explore.
The first time I was on my own (when my “guide” vanished suddenly to a “rabu”), I tried to follow Jean’s footsteps in one chapter.
I soon realised this was just a guidebook for armchair adventurers, and all the “sights” existed in the mind’s eye.
The history had been bombed and burned, then buried under concrete and glass.
So I turned to my Lonely Planet for salvation.
This offered the curious “hack” of doing the Yamanote Line on a geta-thong — buying a ticket just to the next station, but riding the circle in the opposite direction.
This is possibly the naughtiest thing I ever did in Japan.
I spent one hour staring out the window at the ass-side of the concrete and glass, feigning invisibility, praying that ticket inspectors wouldn’t find me.
Trust me, it was worth the 100 yen ticket.

We’ll have a gay old time

Out in Tokyo

In putting finger to smart phone screen, I’m reminded of a routine from Monty Pythons Flying Circus:
“So, you’ve… you know… you’ve done it.”
“Done what?”
“You’ve… slept… with a lady.”

Which is nonsense.
Of course I haven’t.
But I was interviewed recently about being gay in Japan.
How to answer…? I’ve had ramen, tsukemen, tan-tan men — in effect, developing a whole new range of taste in men.

Seriously, though, life in rural Japan has been closeted for me, which I resent somewhat. Back home in Oz, I was as out as they get.

Meanwhile, on the streets of Tokyo, many know of ‘the gay area’ Shinjuku 2-chome. Not worth visiting if you’re not a ‘member’ of the team. People like their privacy. It’s not a zoo. There are about 300 bars there and I’ve been to about 7 (Kinsmen and Tac’s Knot were great). Most are tiny, some are host bars.

There are no great dance clubs. Some good dance parties held in bigger venues every few months.

The area is young, and I don’t feel so welcome there at 45.

Recently a mate told me about the scenes at Shinbashi and Ueno. These are apparently for a more mature crowd.

In terms of finding love (?), or trade, I think less happens in cruising clubs than online these days. Gaydar seems old school, Grindr more effective in central Tokyo. Japanese guys use Jack’d and 9monsters apps, and play just as many games as gay guys online around the world.

I deplore the lack of awareness of STIs here. Government policy doesn’t help matters.

On a positive note, I attended one of the rainbow pride marches last year at Yoyogi. Was lovely weather and a friendly, festive atmosphere.

Get Out of Tokyo

Living out of Tokyo (80 kms, in Odawara), around the corner from the hot springs (onsen) of Hakone, every day seems like the weekend (exaggerated grimace emoji).
City friends drool “I love Hakone, I planned to go last year, but couldn’t find time”.
TBH, going to Tokyo on a non-work day feels the same to me.
Most weekends I head to onsen in Hakone or even further afield.

Here are my onsen secrets, not far from Tokyo, on “my side of the mountain”.

Odakyu (Odawara) line from Shinjuku:
Atsugi: 七沢 (Nanasawa). One hour from Shinjuku, then a bus. Feels like real countryside.
Hadano area (easy to visit 大山 (Oyama) from Isehara for sight-seeing to make a day trip):
Tsurumaki-onsen: For a one-day visit (日帰り) Kobo-no-sato-yu (弘法の里湯) is most convenient.
Tokaidaigaku-mae station: Sazanka-no-yu is a short walk uphill from the station

Hakone: So many options, but my hot tip in the area is 姥子温泉 秀明館 (Uba-ko-onsen Shumeikan). It’s a world away. Stay all day, but bring a lunch-box.
天山 (Tenzan) is the only onsen I know that is OK with tattoos. The restaurants and sleeping room (over looking a river) are great, and many seasonal “events” (fireflies, etc.)
A nifty trip is to catch Daiyuzan line from Odawara 21 minutes to the last station, bus up to Saijo-ji temple (Daiyuzan) then hike across the mountain Myojo-ga-dake to 宮城野 (Miyagino) (near Hakone). After the hike, you’ll appreciate the hot springs here either the town onsen (町営) (cheap & cheery) or 勘太郎の湯 (Kantaro-no-yu).

Down the Izu peninsula, Yugawara is great. It was a getaway for samurai from Edo.
There are a few onsen, but my favourite is 嵯峨沢の湯 (Sagasawa-no-yu). It’s a hike up hill, or get the bus.
An incredible onsen is just south of Atami at 平鶴 (Hira-tsuru) Hotel, on the coast. The outdoor bath is virtually on the sea.

Up in the mountains, easier with a car, is 紅富士の湯 (Benifuji-no-yu) at Yamanaka-ko. Good view of Mt Fuji from the bath.
Another hot-spot (insanely inexpensive) is あしがら温泉 (Ashigara-onsen) which is operated by the town of 小山町 (Oyama-cho). This has one of the best views of Mt Fuji from a bath. It’s not far from Gotemba.

What’s your secret weekend getaway?

Get Smarter: JLPT: My 2 sen’s worth

If you’d like to know if you should sit the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, then do it.
It would provide a somewhat focussed study plan and give you a SMART goal.
It is the only qualification recognised by companies in Japan, to my knowledge.

Sorry, did you ask what I think of the test?
It’s as good as any examination system in Japan…

It’s formulaic, so it operates on patterns, based on previous exams.
If you want the knowledge, learn the hard way and pat yourself on the back for your progress regardless of your exam result.
If you want a certificate, learn by the book. Find the best ‘JLPT for Dummies’ you can find, and swot section A & some of B. Test and test to prepare.

On the day, answer every question.
If you have no idea, ignore the longest and shortest answers, eliminate the next most complex answer, and the remaining answer will be the correct one, the majority of the time.
But TBH, is JLPT-1 as good as a foreigner can get in Japanese? Now that I have level-1, should I just smile and crack funny puns?

Most Japanese have never taken the exam, so it’s like those funny English exams would seem to a native English speaker.
If you want to impress Japanese people, do the exam they know: Kanji Kentei.
If you can pass pre-2, you’ll get a nod, pass level 2 and you’re revered, though it’s only the standard kanji (Joyo Kanji)
The legendary Bu-sensei (Brett) got pre-1, then level 1. He is your Kanji God.

Whatever DO you choose, it’s what you learn in the process that will abide with you.

The Fatal Sure–Mything the Point

At school, I was taught that Australia was colonised by Britain along these lines:

“The reasons that led the British to invade Australia were simple. The prisons in Britain
had become unbearably overcrowded, a situation worsened by the refusal of America to
take any more convicts after the American War of Independence in 1783.”
(“The British Invasion of Australia. Convicts: Exile and Dislocation’ Sue Ballyn (2011) in

‘Lives in Migration: Rupture and Continuity’)

An online search shows this idea is still widely circulated.


I no longer believe this line of reasoning.moonings
It is somewhat akin to suggesting that we send scientists to Antarctica because we have too many scientists.
Governments throughout history have used prisoners as convenient cheap or free labour to perform public works, and continue to do so today.
I suspect (and I hope that some more eminent historians have already written) that the main motive for the colonisation was that British sought to claim the vast continent of Australia for potential economic and strategic advantage, ahead of their Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French counterparts. The 1500s saw the start of European colonisation in the Americas; colonisation in Asia was in full-swing from the 1600s. Having lost America, it only made sense for the British to seek fresh fields.
Later, additional colonies were established in distant reaches of the Australian continent–far from the first settlement in Sydney (Tasmania, Western Australia, Queensland). This makes more sense strategically than practically. Furthermore, maintaining the status of colonies as penal settlements for as long as possible allowed Britain to maintain tighter control.
“How will we convince our people to move to Australia?” politicians may have asked.
“Encourage them to do it for the glory of Britain, to hedge off our French rivals!” might not convince many potential settlers.
The modern day equivalent is moving to Mars. Brave people might volunteer, but in contrast, convict labour is cheap, plentiful and compliant.
I’ll leave my supposition here, as it is personal conjecture, and I have not been able to find sources to back up my argument.
So Aussie children continue to learn that “Britain needed to send prisoners somewhere, so they chose to colonise Australia”, as a form of justification. Replacing the word “colonise” with “invade”, if the real motives remain obscured, perpetuates a dangerous myth.

Arabic Time Again

I’ve started dabbling in Arabic.
This is early daze, and I’m not holding high hopes.
My motivation has been the nonsense going on in the world, in particular the racist nonsense in Oz with the anti-halal movement that apparently is unaware of where their petroleum comes from.
I’ve decided I can’t fight the ignorance without, but I can try and stop its infiltration into my psyche.
So I’ve made a conscious effort to follow folks on Twitter who can enlighten me a little on the issues and we’ve had some wonderful interaction.
Similarly I’ve been able to connect with some indigenous Australians, where living in Oz we seemed to live in different worlds.
A gay Japanese friend of mine once told me one reason he liked being gay was that he mixed with a cross section of society he didn’t think would be the case as a str8 guy. Different age groups, professions and the like.
Twitter has been that way for me.
Back to Arabic.
I’m trying to learn the alphabet, and take it from there.
Visits to France have brought me closer to Arabic speakers than living in Japan. And a number of my friends in France share my interest in learning Arabic due to similar reasons. The best way they see to resist the xenophobia promoted by Front National is to reach out, connect, understand and embrace diversity.
And the Arabic alphabet ain’t that difficult. Looks like squiggles, yet millions of people can read and communicate with it.
See how we go.