...I'm just really, really bad at it. Sssh, don't tell certain segments of radical feminism: I'm actually not interested in destroying the paradigm. I'm not interested in smashing it into pieces to the point where it is impossible to reassemble any kind of social order. There are even *gasp* parts of the current social order I like. It's sort of true what they say, I want to support a version of the paradigm, be it gender or otherwise.
It is just... well, what that paradigm might look like is what they get terribly, horribly wrong. Because what I want is to transform it, just as Judith Butler maintains is possible. Like me, she does not believe that dominant paradigms can be smashed to little pieces. But they can be made better.
What people are often shocked to hear about me is that all I have ever really wanted is to belong, to be accepted, to be part of the group. "But you've always marched to your own drum, you've always chosen to be different," they say. "You've never done things the easy way." It's like that quote from Pretty in Pink which I adore so much, "Andie, if you send out signals you don't want to belong, people are going to make sure that you don't." To which Andie (and I) responds, "Yeah, that's a nice theory."
BZZT. Wrong. It is not that I chose to be different; it is that my differences were not accepted. Differences I firmly believe I had no control over. I think I am speaking to a sympathetic audience here, so this probably doesn't need to be spelled out but, I did not choose to be transgender. My gender identity was not a choice I made. I can't change it, and deep down, I have to admit, I'm really glad that there's no legitimate mental/neurological "cure"—because sometimes I think I'd take it. And while I try not to think about it very much, there are times when I find that absolutely terrifying.
I've always sought validation, although I've been able to cope when it wasn't provided (which was most of the time). I turned inwards to novels and later to fandom subcultures for science fiction and anime/manga. I think a great many people believe that my isolation and exclusion came about as a result of my loner appearance or identification with fandom subcultures. That I was sending signals meaning I didn't want to belong to the dominant culture. This is exactly opposite. I looked for inclusion and acceptance elsewhere, because I could not find it in my everyday life.
Truth be told, I am the fake geek girl. There was a time when I was super into comics. I barely read them anymore. There was a time I was super into Star Trek and Star Wars. This isn't really the case now. And as for anime/manga... Well, I owe that medium and its (western) subculture a great debt because without it I would not have ended up in a place I consider my home and with which I identify strongly. But... I watch very little anime and read very little manga anymore. I am a fan of certain series and certain works, but that's no different than any approach to media. I do attend one anime convention each year where I work as an interpreter and give panels on Japanese immigration and history, but that feels different to me. I watch Sherlock, but I am not a Holmsian, I watch Dr. Who at times, but I am not a Whovian.
Part of this is just growing up and, "putting away childish things." Not that there's any wrong, at all, in remaining a fan for those folks who are actual fans. I'm not, and I wasn't. Because I wasn't there to be a fan, I was there to be with fans. To feel accepted and included. To feel as though my differences were, if not celebrated or valued, at least irrelevant to that acceptance and inclusion. And more to the point, I wasn't in constant danger. I've talked in other articles about how violent my childhood and adolescence were because of peers. Most groups which represented the dominant cultural paradigm were ones which were violently hostile to my inclusion. Exclusion was not just enforced by teasing or taunting, it was enforced by tripping, punching, kicking, etc. So subcultures were largely safe spaces (at least physically) in a way in which my daily life was not. (A reminder, transgender people have a 1 in 4 chance of being murdered in the United States versus the general population, are 50 percent more likely to be murdered than LG people, and that 265 trans people, that are reported, are murdered each year. That's five a week. At least we get weekends off?)
I'm a collectivist. I'm a statist. I'm a democratic socialist. I support public, standardised education, healthcare, and infrastructure because I believe in obligations to others and obligations to the group are just as important as individual rights. Both must be in balance. I'm a trade unionist. I believe in negotiation and consensus. I believe in validating language. I believe in discourse where everyone's viewpoints shift and benefit, not either/or debate. I spent my adolescence in Texas where these views are not popular. I believe I developed these views in response to the exclusion and overwhelming focus on libertarian individualism in a heavily Republican and class privileged area. The message I heard consistently throughout my teenage years was, "I've got mine, I will do anything to increase it and protect it, and fuck you." 30 miles away from my well kept, well funded, well stocked, well equipped, almost all white high school was a high school which was majority minority and/or low-income students and was none of these things. It bothered me even then. It disturbs me greatly now.
Japanese society has issues. It has cracks. There are paradigms and privileges. Patriarchy is still present. It has a very different idea of how one becomes a contributing member of society (which I will get into a bit more further down). It is by no means a perfect place. Yet what I have found here, and which I was glad to hear LeChatmorte back up, is a society which, in many fundamental ways, shares my values. I've lived in four different prefectures (like states or provinces) and my experiences with public services have been that they are all pretty much alike. A child in Fukuoka (including children of expatriates) receives the same standard of public education as a child in rural Hokkaido, or Tokyo, etc. Facilities are not as well maintained as my schools were, but they are far better maintained than many schools I visited in South Dallas or Vine City in Atlanta. And all are maintained at the same level. My pension and my healthcare follow me around no matter where I work, no matter if I lose my job, and I get the same quality care (and high quality of care it is!) at any public hospital (and many private hospitals) into which I walk. Japanese public transportation is safe, reliable, clean, efficient, and comfortable. The income gap is much, much smaller than in the United States and most Japanese consider themselves "middle class" regardless of income level. The right to collective bargaining is enshrined in the Japanese constitution. I do pay a lot of taxes in Japan. I don't earn very much at all. And we are running a lot of deficits, but Japanese debt is... well... largely owed to ourselves (and I include myself because I've "invested" in the promise of the pension service and healthcare system). I think there are solutions to this, and one of those is a minor and carefully controlled increase in immigration (but that is another article I am working on, so I won't go into details here).