Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
The more I hear in the news about civil rights for sexual minorities, the more confused I become. Maybe I am intimidated by rapid change in society. Or, maybe I’m homophobic. Or, maybe I am not confused or intimidated or homophobic so much as simply LGBT-fatigued.
The issues are recognition of same sex marriage, social and workplace acceptance of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders, parity with heterosexuals in matters of insurance, pensions, mortgages, inheritance, etc. In his Sunday, August 25, 2013 Japan Times Counterpoint essay “Gay marriage in Japan? Only over the reactionary LDP’s cadaver” Jeff Kingston used some form of the word “accept” seven times. I got tired of it and wondered, why all this concern to be accepted, approved of, received favorably, agreed with, etc.? It is necessary to wage civil rights battles to ensure structural impediments are reduced for everyone in society, and in the process we all benefit, because when society is better for one it is better for all. But gerrymandering how people think and feel by outlawing certain ideas and emotions is unacceptable, not to mention impossible. I understand that people seek affirmation. But if they can’t find it, then why care about what others think? What’s more important is that people mind their own business, which is one of the primary commandments of civilized life and goes a long way towards protecting civil rights. Of course, different people have different ideas for different reasons about what is and is not their business, leading some with the best intentions to be totally wrong in their thoughts and actions. Many of the worst things in history have been perpetrated with the best intentions.
Minding one’s own business plays two ways. It means keeping your nose out of other people’s affairs, while carefully guarding your own. But we live in a world where popular culture is increasingly voyeuristic, exhibitionist and confessional. It is a feature of egoism, and I largely blame the miasma of Americanism for it. First, people inflate their sense of entitlement and over-estimate their rights, and wrongly assume publicity is a right. Second, people’s confidence is such that they don’t feel anything unless they confess and exhibit themselves. These resemble pathology more than therapy. Finally, people mistake these behaviors as virtues, perhaps shunning privacy by wrongly confusing it with criminal secrecy. For me this combination diminishes our humanity more than it augments us. Minimum privacy does not lend itself to maximum humanity.
Everyone belongs to a minority of some kind. Many of us belong to more than one minority simultaneously. The point for me is that my privacy is exactly that - no one’s business. Get used to it. I won’t disclose what minorities I belong to and I won’t help the curious unpuzzle it. I’m just tired of being bombarded with unsolicited information that’s really none of my business, and I resist adding to it.
Published on Sunday, September 1, 2013 as "Enough unsolicited information."
I am rather in agreement with the Japanese government's position on identifying gender on official documents. The government here forbids transgender people to change their registered gender on official documents, as many of them want, on the basis of a genetic definition of gender. Gender is determined by chromosomes. XY is a male. XX is a female. Surgical alteration of one's external sexual appearance does not alter one's chromosome structure. I kind of agree with that. It's simple and straightforward, not to mention accurate.