Report: Lecture on "The Politics Surrounding Names and Labels"

3rd year student, Division of Languages, ICU

【The article below is the same as the article that appears in the twelfth issue of the CGS Newsletter.】
On May 20, 2009, I attended an open lecture on "The Politics Surrounding Names and Labels" as part of the "Approaches to Gender Studies" course. The speakers were Akira Miyama, host of the news website Delta G, and guest lecturer Yuriko Iino.
The lecture questioned why it was only non-heterosexuals who were compelled to label themselves. As stated in its flyer, it discussed the political nature of names and labels, including coming out, unilateral naming and the effect of naming on one's personality.

The act of self-labeling or self-naming can be a highly effective strategy at times. In the form of parades held throughout the country, for example, it improves the visibility of sexual diversity, sexual minorities and queers, and rocks the foundations of this heterosexist society.
Yet, at the same time, there are many risks. A "name" or "label" is associated with society's illogical prejudice and stereotypes, so it can make one vulnerable to criticism and discrimination. Of course, a person cannot be completely defined by a single "name", or by his or her sexuality. But perhaps because non-heterosexuals are usually so hidden, as soon as they label themselves, they tend to be entirely defined by their sexuality.
Heterosexuals, however, do not have a need to label themselves because society is structured around heterosexism. Thus, they do not have to deal with the problem of being treated as though their entire existence can be summarized with one label: "heterosexual". Even if they were to label themselves as such, "heterosexuality" is "normal", so it would not be harmful for them in any way.
These are what I felt were the main points of the lecture. I think that I particularly feel the importance of this issue right now with job-hunting looming ahead of me.
Fortunately, at ICU, I have rarely been compelled to label myself, or been subjected to prejudice. However, I would like to reiterate that this occurred "rarely" but not "never". Even at ICU, there are people who are troubled by the issue of naming, and it is also something that concerns me in my daily life.
The reason why I am especially anxious about becoming a full, working member of society is because I know that the relatively relaxed conditions at ICU are quite special. The negative, comical image of non-heterosexuals that flows throughout society was quite common at my high school. This heterosexist current was so strong that I couldn't even begin to think about strategically labeling myself. I remember feeling swept away and buried by this overwhelming tide of heterosexism.
In short, labeling yourself in this heterosexist current is not only highly risky by also requires tremendous strength and will power. Faced with such a challenge, I worry about whether I will actually be able to go through with it, and I am aware of the immense power difference between myself and those who do not need to label themselves. But this doesn't mean that I can give up the strategic advantages of labeling myself
What I hope for is a society where the active of naming will not result in power differences ? of course, I do not think this can be accomplished straight away. It will be a long, long fight. If we constantly try to defy the rapid tide and attempt to label ourselves, we would become exhausted. My challenge is to find a way to survive this complicated reality, whilst balancing the strategic advantages of the naming process with the devastatingly long, hard fight that it entails.