Calum Galt: LGBT Groups (G・Front Kansai and Gradations)

This semester I decided to try to involve myself with the local LGBT scene by participating in both G・Front Kansai, a region-wide group that appeals to all ages and demographics, and Gradations, a much smaller student group based at Doshisha University. I decided to do this for both intellectual and personal reasons. My major is women’s studies, and I have a particular interest in issues of sexuality and gender, especially in Japan, as it provides an extreme point of comparison to Western conceptions of sex and gender. I wanted to experience the way queer people live in Japan, if only vicariously, by becoming involved with them socially. Personally, as a gay man, I also wanted to see what my Japanese counterparts were like and to become more or less accepted (even as a token gaijin). My experiences this semester have been a mixed bag, some meeting my hopes and some falling short.

Unlike my senpai, Adam Roberts, who did the same activities as me, I found Gradations rather then G・Front Kansai to be the more enjoyable group, perhaps because we wanted different things from our groups. Having said that, I share many of the same objections he had to both circles. The lack of events, the low participation rates, and the many awkward silences and palpable feeling of being separate from the group put me off quite a bit. Any gains I’ve made in getting close to my circle have been gradual, especially considering the few opportunities I’ve had to meet with people. I’ve focused almost entirely on Gradations, as  the events are more geared towards college-age students and thus involve my peers. It also helps that events are on mostly on or near to campus. In contrast, I found G・Front’s events awkward because of the age gap between me and the few members I’ve encountered. The distance I had to travel to Osaka and the awkwardness of the meetings put me off and I didn’t go back after my first few attempts. Gradations, not without its awkwardness, was still friendlier that G・Front, especially after people realized that I can in fact speak Japanese.

Gradations events consisted of 飲み会 and ランチ会, or drinking parties and lunch meetings. The drinking parties were the most enjoyable because everyone was able to relax their inhibitions and have fun with everyone, whereas the lunch meetings were often awkward affairs with a very clearly split between nihonjin and gaijin, with regular members having conversations in small clusters and gaijin separated from the main group. I found this the most frustrating, and sometimes skipped lunch meetings because I preferred to eat with other friends in KCJS and have real conversation. I still have another semester, though, and I’m determined to involve myself more in Gradations and hopefully break down some barriers with the time I have left. I only wish that there were more activities and more participants, which I imagine could happen if the group weren’t so secretive (another point of frustration, but admittedly a necessary one). I may consider taking on a second CIP next semester (KIX or Kyodai’s LGBT group perhaps) in order to expand my opportunities for interacting with Japanese students.

One thought on “Calum Galt: LGBT Groups (G・Front Kansai and Gradations)

  1. Keep up the ganbaru! It sounds like soon enough you’ll feel more comfortable at Gradations, but I think that a second CIP is a good idea because another circle might be more open than Gradations to meeting foreigners. From the meetings you’ve had so far with them, have you found anything interesting about Japanese LGBTQ? For practically your same reasons I decided to make church my CIP, but I found that Japanese Christians are pretty much the same as my Christian friends at home 😀