Elevate Difference

AsiaPacifiQueer: Rethinking Genders and Sexualities

Aside from a women’s studies class I took as an undergraduate, of which I remember very little, thoughts on gender and sexuality typically have not taken up much of my time. AsiaPacifiQueer: Rethinking Genders and Sexualities totally changed my perception on these subjects. As a self-proclaimed tomboy, who happens not to be a lesbian, society is much more accepting of my “ways” than they would be if I were an effeminate man. The essays and examinations gathered here by the editors take this subject to an infinitely crucial level in understanding what it means to fall outside of another proverbial box, from a non-Western cultural perspective.

AsiaPacifiQueer brings into focus the dynamics of colonialism, language, and religion, and their shaping of a particular culture seeking to understand itself. It begins with post-World War II Japanese homosexuality and its manifestations through an occupational perspective. In this essay, white collar and working class occupations both play a major role in how work ethic is portrayed in shaping masculinity. This masculinity still finds prevalence in male-male companionship, as evidenced by its over-representation in personal advertisements for male-male companionship.

The essay “Grrrl-Queens” by Clare Maree captures the use of how Japanese language is used not only as a powerful tool with which to communicate across gender lines, but also as a means in which to protest traditional uses of expected gendered communication. One-kotoba is considered a type of language and speech pattern used traditionally by gay men, and is "a parody of stereotypical women’s language," considered to be a hyperfeminine style of speech. However, it is purposely used by some lesbian women as an act of resistance to stereotypes of the "butch" lesbian.

In Kam Yip Lo Lucetta’s essay, "Recognition Through Mis-Recognition," the concept of masculine women in Hong Kong is one of a right of passage. Tomboyism is considered a phase that teenage girls go through before maturing to femininity. It does not generate as much anxiety and can even bring benefits in the workplace (the capable worker), provided it is temporary. Needless to say, for those who continue this phase on through womanhood, it represents a failed woman and a disqualified adult.

AsiaPacifiQueer represents a critical discourse though works that are about more than just queer studies. It opens up a much needed dialogue on how society uses gender and sexuality to dictate its economic, creative, and interpersonal relationships with its every conceivable contact. It is inevitable that in this examination, given the aforementioned hopes, it should create a wider spectrum with which to reevaluate the relationship between gender and sexuality.

Written by: Olupero R. Aiyenimelo, February 19th 2009

this sounds like a really interesting book. adding it to my list of books to read.

Shit, why can't gay men join in fighting homophobia along with lesbians? Mocking them through the parody of "women's language" as vernacular is, well, sad and pathetic.The tomboy issue in Hong Kong is interesting. I was not aware.I wish the reviewer had given us more examples.