For my CIP, I joined an LGBT circle called G-FRONT KANSAI in Osaka. My reasoning for joining an LGBT circle was because I had the desire to learn about the differences within American LGBT culture and Japanese LGBT culture. While I only was able to attend two meetings of G-FRONT, I feel that I was able to learn quite a bit.
First, LGBT culture has a number of unique vocabulary items, and learning new words and the equivalents to American LGBT culture words was a very cool thing for me. The way LGBT circles operate in America versus Japan is also rather different. In American LGBT circles (at least the ones at the University of Michigan), a person’s pronouns are asked, sexuality is never explicitly stated in self-introductions, and personal questions are often not asked for fear of making a person too uncomfortable. At my LGBT circle here in Japan, I was asked to state my sexuality in my self-introduction, was asked several times what my ideal “type” is (we even had a session where we all talked about our ideal type of boyfriend which was the focus topic of my first G-FRONT meeting). At the second meeting I attended, the subject was much more complicated—it focused on the issues of being LGBT while in care houses for the elderly. Unfortunately, the conversation was so complex and rapidly spoken about that I was essentially unable to contribute anything truly meaningful to the conversation, which was a shame.
G-FRONT seems to do activities and events for different types of people, so whenever I went to a meeting it was all gay men (meetings/events for lesbians or transgender people are separated for example). One distinct thing I noticed right away about G-FRONT was that, because it is not a college group, the members were quite a bit older than I. In fact, the youngest member besides me was 34, the oldest being in their 50’s!
After each meeting and get together that is part of the official G-FRONT itinerary, about half of the group goes out to dinner to get some food and a few drinks, so I was invited and joined them both times I attended a meeting (after the first meeting I went to, I was also taken to a real Japanese gay bar in Osaka, which was a very eye-opening experience for me, but not after the second meeting). These dinners occurred at the same restaurant each time (indicating the habitual, group spot of choice), and it was at this setting that I got to have more “real” and informal conversation where I learned new words specific to Japanese LGBT culture, the phone apps that gay men in Japan use to meet each other, and all sorts of interesting general information about the gay experience in Japan.
My CIP experiences have been extremely rewarding and fulfilling. My identity as a gay male has always been one of my most salient identities, and so back in America at college, my friend circles are LGBT-based and I am very involved in the community. Having been in Japan since June 2014, it wasn’t until I joined G-FRONT in October 2014 that I had any sort of connection to LGBT people in Japan, and I am very glad that I have begun to make these connections. I greatly look forward to my participation in this circle throughout the next semester that I spend in Japan.