(Translator's note: This post is a continuation of a previous entry.)
KAI-YOU: What was their reaction?
Kaoru Oshima: They were most concerned with how I identified on the inside. Was my heart aligned with being a man or a woman? My parents—with my mother in particular—are strict Catholics so they're rather opposed to same-sex relationships.
Brazil is on one hand known for its vibrant community of transgenders, but they face a lot of persecution due to the larger population of Catholics. I recall many a time seeing my parents grimace when transgender actresses appear on TV. For the longest time I had zero intention of telling my parents about my cross-dressing, but eventually I gave in and told them the truth.
This was a worrisome affair for them since due to their religious background, they believed that men can only love women and vice versa.
After telling them that I never once thought of myself as a woman, they felt relieved, but also made a strong point to mention that even if I did associate as a woman, they'd still love me just as much. Though I think from their background they never will be able to fully understand me and I'm fine with that.
KY: Why do you think they will never fully understand you?
KO: I think it's because their background may allow them to comprehend in their heads, but not in their hearts in regards to those like me who identify across both genders.
Not too long ago a gay friend of mine came out to his mother. She ended up crying so much. In his case he didn't ever know his father and he had no siblings. His mother appeared hurt that her only child came out as homosexual and that ended up causing him a lot of distress. However, not too many days after his confession, his mother gave him one of her dresses.
He was in good spirits though. He figured his mom misunderstood and thought he identified as a woman, which was anything but the truth. Either way, it was a powerful story that really impacted me. On one hand it was good that his mother accepted the sexual orientation of her son, but it still was a bit troubling that she may never truly know what it means.
KY: Is this the reason why you have not returned to Brazil?
KO: The biggest reason is because of my younger sister. I don't think she's at the point yet where she can understand who I've become. Otherwise, I don't have any reasons for not going to visit. Well, then there's a bit of a fear of the unknown I do harbor: how are people like me treated abroad?
Outside of developed nations, you rarely see cross-dressers out in the open. What you may see are gay men being confused as hopeful MtF candidates without any money to make it reality. I'm worried that those like myself who express no desire to make that transition may experience some level of prejudice or at the very least, confusion.
KY: Do you consider cross-dressing to be a uniquely Japanese thing?
KO: I'm sure it exists throughout Asia and I know there's also people like me in America.
KY: Do you identify as a Brazilian given that you still maintain citizenship there?
KO: No, not really. My entire life's pretty much been in Japan. However, there are a few times when I did see myself turning back. For example, they have military service there and some time ago I had to fill out an exemption form. Usually you have to do it, but since I was living abroad, I had the ability to opt out.
To fill and submit that form I had to make my way to the Brazil Embassy, but they only have locations in Tokyo and Nagoya. However, I was living in Osaka so going to the Nagoya location wasn't just a walk in the park. I had to take time off from work to get there. The line was long in spite of the actual process of handing it in being very short. It was just one of those things I had to do though as a citizen of another country.
Then there's also the elections in Japan which I can't take part of, but I don't feel any ill will. However, voting season in Japan means a constant barrage of news about it both on TV and in the streets so it's hard not to follow it. I don't have much against naturalizing other than it taking a lot of time and many visits to the local government office.
Interview by Koduck Kawaguchi
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