Seeking an identity may be as difficult as finding a perfect partner. When you truly know yourself and start loving yourself, you may feel like you meet a whole new person. This is the story of a Japanese woman finding her identity in a new life, in a new country.
“Generally, I really don’t like guys, especially straight guys who see girls in a sexual way…I had that feeling since I was a kid. As we grow up and go to junior high or high school, dating becomes a big part of life, right? My friends started dating boys and I also had a crush on a guy for the first time. I was able to date him, but the thing is, even though everyone knew we were dating, I really didn’t want people to see us together. Even after that, I had several relationships with guys. You feel happy and fun when you are with a guy you like, feel like you wanna stay with him longer, and feel great when you kiss or have sex with him, don’t you? That is what I never felt with guys. Having said that, I have not gotten to love a girl either, but anyways, I knew that I was a little bit different. I was not trying to figure out my sexuality or anything; I just had a weird feeling that I was not completely myself and was uncomfortable living in Japan.
Later on, I was working at an apparel store in Japan, and suddenly, I felt I wanted to change something. So, I decided to come to the States. This was when I was twenty-seven. I didn’t choose to come to San Francisco, though. I wanted to go to San Diego because I thought the city was warm and fun. I couldn’t find a host family there, so ended up coming to this city, which ultimately I believe was destiny. I didn’t even know about the Castro, actually. When I went to the Castro for the first time, I saw what I had never seen — or could ever see – in Japan; the different shapes of love and the people who don’t give a f**k about what others think and are who are proud of being themselves. In a second, the weird feeling that had been haunting me since youth dissipated. San Francisco helped me realize there is no need to have to have any boundaries and I can be who I choose to be. No one really judges you here, and I love that. I’m comfortable and confident with myself in this city. Since then, I’ve established this sense of self-love; it’s like I have an orgasm every day. That’s the best explanation of my feeling! Plus, as a Star Wars otaku, living in San Francisco is like living in a paradise.
I wish my mom could be a little bit more open-minded. She has an old-fashioned, “stereotypical” Japanese mind. She doesn’t even like me living away from Japan with a so-called “untypical” family–with a straight male husband and kids. Many people are like still like this. They judge you when you aren’t married yet after thirty, when you aren’t dating anyone, and when you aren’t heterosexual. Much of Japanese culture likes to judge people who are not doing what they are supposed to do. I just tell my friends to be supportive, understanding adults to their kids, friends, and anyone around them. It is not very easy to change an entire society, but I want more open-minded people. I want more equality to be spread around the world. Because of this, I love to share my story.”
// As told to Megumi Hiramoto, photography by Alora King.