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Content notes: Some discussion of rape. This is a lot better than the last chapter, though!

Note: I edited this since I posted it. I had a pretty egregious mistranslation where I mixed up "hermaphrodite" (両性具有) and "bisexual" (両性的) and it didn't even occur to me that just because they literally translate to "both sexes," they didn't necessarily mean the same thing. Mea maxima culpa.


The Last Wall of Heterosexuality


All of the above discussion has taken our current social system and biological sex differences as a starting point, but in shoujo manga there are also works of science fiction – you could call them "sexual science fiction" – that directly confront biological sex differences by imagining entirely different sexes. Hagio Moto's works have used various settings to conduct different experiments with gender. In "They Were Eleven," Frol is from a group of aliens who are androgynous in childhood, and only become male or female when they've reached a certain stage in their growth (fundamentally, only the oldest child becomes male). In "Star Red," the main character, Sei, is born from the belly of a man, Yodaka; in "Marginal," there is a bee-like society made of all men and only one "mother." [HEY THIS ISN'T A BEE-LIKE SOCIETY. HMPF.]

Takemiya Keiko, in "The Legend of Izuaron," creates Prince Al Tiokia. Evil spirits are drawn to him because he is a hermaphrodite, and he fights desperately to avoid being possessed by a spirit. Even when he's sentenced to being burned at the stake, he's determined to die on his own without relying on magical power, and because of that he's able to use his own body as a barrier to imprison the dark lord. (His grand spiritual fight to integrate his divided self seems to underline the theory in sexology that people who can't clearly define their sexual identities as "male" or "female" are prone to neurosis.)

More recently, in "Moon Child" (from 1988), Shimizu Reiko has given us a fresh and graceful image of mermaids who swim home to their native planet in order to lay eggs when the time is right. Out of three children, only one turns into a female, and if that one dies one of the others turns into a female and lays eggs. What's more, the one who turns female only does so in front of the man she loves, and if another man tries to pursue her (no matter how handsome he may be?), she turns back into a boy. In some respects you might say this is the ideal for a woman – I think it's a keen wish of women to only be a woman in front of someone you love. Hasn't everyone thought, on experiencing rape, or groping, or sexual harassment, "I'm not a woman just for your sake!" I do sometimes think, I'd like to have a "woman switch" that I could turn off when I didn't need it.

In Kawasumi Masumi's "Karin" (from 1993), set in an ancient China where the human world and the spirit world had not yet become divided, the protagonist Li An has a sexless pearl spirit for a mother (Golden Pearl), had an uncertain gender in hir childhood, and even after growing up continues to transform from male to female or female to male to suit the people ze's attracted to. The intensity of these changes recall the uncertainties of adolescence, and it's said that eventually they will settle down (probably to a man) once ze pledges hir love to someone. But even afterwards, ze will be able to change back if the will is strong enough, and in fact, the sky-lord Kai, also the child of a pearl spirit (White Pearl), tears up his surroundings because of his attraction to the dragon king, who tells him, "If you change to a woman, I'll welcome you as my concubine," after which Kai does indeed become a woman.

What's interesting in this work is the gender of the "three pearls of the dragon king's sword," including Li An's mother. Yui Fa, Pai Lin, and Hei Shao are all the spirits of pearls – gold, white, and black – but they all take the form of women. But that's only because "No one has yet seen the pearls as 'male.'" It's interesting that the pearls are only concrete forms of the images that people have when they look at the actual jewels. (Indeed, in the course of the series the black pearl, Hei Shao, becomes a man – and, yeah, I do get the feeling that a black pearl could possibly be male.)

The best example of a society that transcends gender, though, is the "perfectly bisexual" society of "Renaissance" by Akisato Wakuni. At a meeting to announce the engagement of a male-female couple, you hear people say:

"I always thought you'd have a same-sex marriage."
"If I ever get married, I'd like to marry someone of my own sex."
"Maybe a man with a very strong anima!"
"I think so, but I couldn't marry a man unless he was that kind of man."

Finally someone tells the protagonist:

"Hey, you're not one of those people who only fall for people of the opposite sex?"

To which the protagonist answers:

"In this day and age? No way, I'm not that kind of pervert!"

When I read this, I sat up straight and thought, "Oh! Really! I guess that would be a good way to think about it." A perfectly bisexual society – that would sweep away all the problems I've been talking about in a single fell swoop.

People who emphasize sex differences often say, "Do you really want to live in the kind of boring, homogeneous society where men and women are exactly the same?" But the world of "Renaissance" isn't boring; that much is clear. It's a society full of diversity, a society where you can choose the blend of "masculinity" and "femininity" that is in accordance with your own soul's desires. You can choose that for yourself; and you can also choose a partner by those criteria.

Until then, when you say "More than sex differences, individuality. Differences between men and women should be reduced as much as possible," there's been a tendency to imagine a society without sex differences. But what's imagined here is a society with all different kinds of genders. Yes – THAT is what you should imagine, instead. It's been impossible because until now we've conflated biological sex differences with cultural sex roles. Fundamentally, we need to disentangle these. Then, rather than losing our culture up till now, we'll get a greater abundance in our culture.

And at this point, the greatest wall is stubbornness about heterosexuality. As long as heterosexuality exists, at some level people are going to love men who fit the image of what is "manly" and women who fit the image of what is "womanly." But in a completely bisexual society, this "Renaissance" society, all of the problems surrounding gender dissolve. And if you don't go that far... to some degree, gender differences will never disappear, will they? The truth is, if you think of it that way it solves a lot of problems. The problems of shoujo manga where cross-dressing boys are allowed only to the degree that they preserve a fundamental masculinity, or a manga like "Searching for Ophelia" where a cross-dressing man is cool as a woman but pathetic as a man, would disappear like morning fog.

But for same-sex marriage and opposite-sex marriage to be seen as equal, first you need to get past the problem of reproduction. And, more than anything, the question of whether anyone – gay or straight – can so easily be freed from a certain obstinacy about the sex of the partners they desire.

In reality, if you look solely at how picky they are about the gender of their desired partners, there's no difference between straight people and gay people. In the midst of feminism's reexamining of gender roles, the question of gender roles has found a clear answer: "They can be changed," and fundamentally that has become shared through society (even if there are a certain number of people who don't accept that). But that has led to new issues that we need to reexamine: "What is sexuality," "What's the relationship between sex difference and sex desire, and can they be separated?" We don't have clear answers to that; we don't even have hypotheses. No doubt these will be important themes of the coming twenty-first century, but in our current heterosexist society, the perception of sex difference is such a fundamental and deeply-rooted part of human identity, it's not easy to tease out what can be changed and what can't be changed. I will continue throughout my whole life to pull along my own framework as a basically heterosexual woman, and there's no doubt in my mind that this manuscript reflects that.

But still, it's something to imagine what society could be like if we could get past heterosexuality, and stubbornness about the sex of the sex partners we choose.

In Morizono Milk's "Drag," which depicts the life of a drag queen living in New York (based on "Feel Young" by Emi Eleonola), Mama Rose, the "mama" of the gay bar where the drag queens' show is held, says he is the protagonist's father, and says:

"All of my gay friends were mad at me for dating a woman. At first I didn't really understand it myself. But now I understand. We fell in love so that we could bring you into the world. And I fell in love with a woman also because, before my sexuality as a gay man, I'm a human being." "I think that, from human love, sexuality is just going to get more diverse. We might even lose these labels of gay, lesbian, bisexual. If you think too hard about tough things you're just going to hurt your head. Relax. That's all we can do."

Relax. That's right. Yes, take a deep breath and start over. Believe that we might be freer tomorrow than we are today.

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July 2018

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