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Sunday, January 24, 2010

GLBT Challenge 2010: January Mini-Challenge

Main Challenge: GLBT Challenge 2010

January's Mini-Challenge
Take a moment to write a paragraph or two on why this challenge and/or this issue is important to you.

So, I've gone through at least 4 drafts of this and cut out a crapload of excess rambling (I go off-topic on rants often) but it's still quite over the few paragraphs requested. I'm putting this under a cut for those averse to discussions on sexual orientation or large paragraphs of text.

Since I was little, I've been obsessed with Japanese anime/cartoons and manga/comics - my favourite toys were Gundams (which I used to attack my Barbie dolls lol) and I watched an insane amount of anime on TV/DVDs. Japan, as many fans would know, has a distinct - and HUGE - market for GLBT material. They call it yaoi/shounen-ai(boys' love)/shoujo-ai(girls' love)/etc. and include both original series (ex. Gravitation), and GLBT short stories/manga based on series both GLBT and not (aka doujinshi). Like fanfiction, these works draw on the canon of an original story and builds up "something more" between pairings that they see as plausible/interesting/sexy. I'll admit a HUGE portion of it is gratuitous porn. However, there are also many artists that draw beautiful stories about both teens and adults who discover their sexuality and fall in love, sometimes even without actual sex involved at all (I personally recommend Sumomo Yumeka's works for the gorgeous art and fluffy YA/teen GLBT short stories). A huge part of my attraction and support for GLBT things was cultivated in my adoration of these stories.

I don't actually quite remember when I became a GLBT supporter (in the non-activist sense), but that's probably because so much of the Japanese entertainment media I grew up obsessing over (anime, manga, rock bands, boy bands, actors, movies) encourages strong homoerotic undertones that it's hard to distinguish when I've come to accept it as just as natural as the hetero "norms" (labeled by society, not me). I've met one or two GLBT friends online over the years and they've told me stories about their troubles with relationships and acceptance in a way I could sympathize with. Many of my female friends are also GLBT supporters (to put it mildly LOL), and we like sharing our views on both hetero and GLBT pairings we think should have been together on different tv shows/books.

My family though, are somewhat traditional people, meaning they believe in the Ying-Yang dichotomy of life (man and woman). I feel it is important to accept that their views are different from mine rather than antagonize them for growing up in a different era, and they're not actively discriminative anyway. This, I admit, does have profound impact on my relationship choices though, since I believe that "marriage is between two families, not just two people" (a quote from the TW drama They Kiss Again wtflol). I feel responsible for supporting my parents both physically and mentally when I grow up, and I can't do so if they do not approve of my spouse (who also preferably should be Chinese so they can communicate better lol). Plus, I don't believe in soul mates (aka "one true love") whether of the same sex or not, and I don't believe myself an invaluable asset to the relationship game anyway whether I choose to pass on female partners or not. However, I stress again that this applies to my views on MY OWN MARITAL relationship only.

It's a whole different matter when looking to other people's relationships. To me, love is more based on intimacy (not just passion) and preferences for different gender (masculine/feminine rather than male/female) characteristics if you can look past reproduction/sex. Studying it from a psychological perspective, love can just be a conveniently random rush of hormones or some kind of associative cue that links a person to happy thoughts. Plus, for example, I'm primarily attracted to masculine personality traits, but it doesn't mean I've only had crushes on males - I've had a few girl-crushes on tomboy or less-feminine women too. I'm also quite attracted to feminine traits like being nurturing and graceful. I'm quite open to being in a relationship with a female if I like her, but - just like if it were a guy - they would have to accept that I have little interest in sex, babies, or even marriage. I've joked to my friends before that I was non-sexual, it might be a little true lol.

I remember being asked a few times what I would do if a girl were to ask me out, and I replied that I would ask to be friends first - I have no intention of dating someone I know nothing of. This is a general principle for me, and something that I think sets some hetero and GLBT literature apart. In many stories where there's a girl and a guy who just meet, one becomes smitten and alludes right away to some form of romantic relationship, usually on the basis that the other "saved their life" or "is hot". Right away, the romance is considered desired and more importantly "achievable" at minimum, or becomes the center focus of the characters' lives. (Of course this doesn't apply to all hetero couples since I do enjoy reading about quite a few of them).

In GLBT stories however, there's always that hesitance that the other person may not have the same preferences - sexual or not (which I think is a much more realistic approach to relationships). The pairing could start out becoming closer friends or rivals, and usually are able to view the other as equals (which is uncommon in hetero romances, not matter how hard authors "try"). Finding out another person's sexual preference may take one character a lot of effort to know the person better, to the extent that such personal information is shared. Sure there is pining, but at the same time the character is mature enough to admit that their interest may not want a relationship with them.

And a closing note on what kinds of books I'll be reading for this challenge: I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that I rarely read pure romance, and this applies to GLBT as well. I always need a good story twist to keep my interest (paranormal romance is fine), and as I said before I don't feel romance as the center of a person's life. The occasional fluff is welcome of course, but I usually don't want to pay to read 300 pages of sex.

Okay, done =)

...or not. If anyone's interested in finding the GLBT manga stuff I've mentioned above, I suggest signing up at the Aarinfantasy forums. It hosts a crapload of GLBT manga (most of which are translated or "scanlated" into English) as well as doujinshi. They don't have anything that's been licensed for distribution in the US, but there's still a whole lot you can find there (including movies and tv shows as well). Erm, read the warnings and ratings carefully though lol.

Now I'm done.
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Amanda said...

This is a very interesting post. I had no idea that there was so much GLBT Manga out there. In March, we are doing a mini-challenge based on GLBT-related graphic novels. I wonder if, since you know a lot about the manga, you'd like to do a guest post on our blog to help people find something to read that month? We have one other person doing research on GLBT graphic novels, but I don't know of anyone else who knows enough about the subject to do a guest post. Let me know if you'd like to do that, and it's okay if you'd rather not. My email is amandagignac[at]gmail[dot]com

Ryan G said...

I want to thank you for your post and tell you that I'm going to have to hunt down some of the manga you talked aout, I always have a hard time forcing my brain to read it properly but I'll give it a try.