NHK “HEART TV” Documentary on Gays & Lesbians

Undergraduate student, ICU

【The article below is the same as the article that appears in the tenth issue of the CGS Newsletter.】

Gay and lesbian issues were featured in an NHK documentary series called HEART TV, on April 28 and 29, 2008. My overall impression was that they oversimplified sexual minority issues and did not challenge the binary opposition of heterosexuality and homosexuality at all. I am “quasi-bisexual” so I felt completely left out. While I understand that the program restricted its coverage to gays and lesbians as it was targeted to an audience with no background knowledge of sexual minority issues, I believe that it further obscured the differences among sexual minorities as well as the hidden potential of sexuality in general. My concern is that this could lead to a notional separation of one imagined body of “sexual minorities” from the “general public, ” resulting in the superficial, indifferent kind of understanding and acceptance that focuses on political correctness.

The program, however, successfully showed that gays and lesbians do exist in our society. In Japan, it still means so much for a “normal-looking” boy to come out in public saying, “I am gay.” In the program, the first lesbian politician Kanako Otsuji’s mother said, “Everyone was heterosexual in my understanding. Homosexuals belonged in the media.” That is, I believe, what most people tend to think regardless of their sexuality. While they did mention that one or two out of forty students in a typical homeroom class are homosexual, what I found more convincing was the first-person account of a gay boy, one of the guests on the program.
I had to disagree, however, when the hosts and guest speakers discussed how teachers should approach sexual minority issues and treat their students, not all of whom are heterosexual. One of them said, “I would like teachers to tell their students that some people like the same sex just like some people like the opposite sex.” In my opinion, if teachers began saying such things, it would only send out the message that there are people like “gays” and “lesbians” in this world (so we should tolerate and accept them). Consequently, young people would respond to their friends’ coming-out with the typical attitude: “I don’t discriminate against sexual minorities. I have nothing against them, but I don’t care, it’s not my problem.” Such acceptance is as harmful and sad as rejection.
In fact, it is impossible to draw a clear-cut line. These issues do not concern gays and lesbians alone. Sexuality concerns us all. I would like teachers (and other adults, too) to tell children from a younger age that it could happen to anybody, that one day one might all of a sudden develop feelings towards somebody not of the opposite sex. It’s hilarious when somebody says to me, “you must have gone through a lot” just because I am “bisexual.” That somebody fails to see that she/he could be just like me one day. Even if she/he becomes a sexual minority like me, there is no guarantee that we would have many things in common or understand each other well. Everyone is different after all, as Ms. Otsuji says, but the program made no mention of this diverse nature of human sexuality.
In any community, the organizational power could function unexpectedly against individual members unless they respect differences within the group because people who get together are always already different from each other but find something?maybe a very tiny thing?in common to form a community. It does not ensure a safe society; it only reassures us that there are other people like us and therefore we are not alone. A truly safe society would be one in which we all acknowledge and respect each other's differences... NHK plans to feature gay and lesbian issues again. What I would like to see in their next program is flexibility and diversity?in communities and in society?to prepare us and allow us to embrace the unknown, the incomprehensible, rather than explanations of groups that are “different” and “deviant” from the “normal.”