Oh, look – I finally did another post.
One minor spoiler for the manga… which anime watchers may’ve figured out already anyway.
I’ve talked about this in my episode posts before, but I wanted to delve into it a little more and also address related things. I honestly believe that one of the strongest messages of Hourou Musuko is that sexual orientation is, essentially, a non-issue. People fall in love with other people… and that’s it. It’s not a big deal if they’re a girl or a boy or if they’re trans or if they’re cis. It’s just love.
Now, this isn’t to say that HM argues against there being sexual orientation. Just that it doesn’t matter much. Love is love.
But, let me go into something else before I go any further with that, because I think the entire matter of gender needs to be covered before I can really explicate upon love and orientation. Gender is a much more contentious point than orientation is, honestly, because once you begin to question gender and whether it is fixed or not, or tied to someone’s sex or not, it upsets a much, much larger system than does homosexuality. Actually, the reasons for why trans issues tend to be more divisive than homosexuality are much like the reasons for why bisexuality troubles people a whole lot more than homosexuality.
Essentially, bisexuality and transgenderism both dig at the foundations for our “orderly” system of attraction. In case you haven’t noticed, humans largely prefer dichotomies to more complicated schemes. This is due to the fact that most definitions for the various labels we affix to things define them in contrast to what they are not. For example, in America, what are minorities? Minorities are people who are not Caucasian. I bring up this one in particular since it also allows me to point out that biracial marriages were also deeply disturbing because they upset a dichotomy – what is the biracial child of a Caucasian and African-American couple? Is that child Caucasian? African-American? What are they?
Of course, it all boils back to the fact that as a species we tend to dislike ambiguity. Or, even more simply: once upon a distant time, when we were still living in caves and all that jazz, the dark was scary because we didn’t know what was in it, and in those days there was a LOT of stuff that could kill us potentially in that darkness. So, we don’t really like questions without definite answers. (And, really, the darkness is still full of lots and lots of scary stuff in many, many places.)
We define things in contrast. And, so, our systems tend toward dichotomies. If you are a gay man, then you like men. I am not a gay man; therefore, I do not need to be concerned that you will be attracted to me. Attraction complicates human relations. As such, I can feel an ease with you that I may not feel with a straight man (theoretically – I would argue that this tendency to feel more at ease with one’s same-sex peers isn’t nearly at the level it was in previous generations, at least in America; my closest friend in college was a guy, for instance, although I probably would still have felt weird changing in front of him… on the other hand, I don’t really like changing in front of anyone, male or female, so… well… guess it didn’t make a difference!). Or, even more simply, the locker room experience – one of the things brought up multiple times in the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell debate was, oh my lord, you want me to shower with the gays?!?! They’ll be checking me out! (Never mind that they were already there and studiously not checking anyone out… or that even with repeal that sexual harassment is a punishable offense.)
So, knowledge of orientation when heterosexual or homosexual puts people at ease at least since it seems predictive of future behavior. A gay girl will like girls, a straight girl will like boys.
But bisexuals throw this entire system into flux because, holy hell, they could like anyone! You, me, my neighbor Bob! They could date a girl, and then marry a man. They could be married to a man and cheat on him with a woman! How can we ever possibly pin them down?
Transgender people throw even more of a monkey wrench in, since their gender is in variance with their sex. If a woman has a crush on a transman, what does that mean for her own orientation? If he is dressing as a man but still has female sexual features, does that mean the woman is gay? Or is she straight because he appears to be a man?
Let’s actually pull one of the characters from HM into this – Nitori. Nitori feels that he is really a girl. Nitori likes girls. Does that mean that Nitori is gay, then? Or do his sexual features over-ride his gender identity, thus meaning that he is straight?
Of course, talking about Nitori and Takatsuki PERIOD brings up issues because of pronouns. I tend toward using ‘he’ for Nitori and ‘she’ for Takatsuki because of their own discussion about the usage of personal pronouns and the fact that they intend to retain the one’s they are used to already – ‘boku’ for Nitori, ‘watashi’ for Takatsuki.
Anyway, straight or gay or what? Personally, I’d say “who the fuck cares?”, but I also realize I’m better adjusted than about 85% of the population. For many these things actually kind of matter. But it does bring me back to my initial statement – that HM is making an argument for orientation not mattering much. The kids in HM certainly don’t seem to be troubled by their personal attractions. Poor Mako-chan is so far shit out of luck because he gets crushes on men and boys who aren’t interested in other men or boys, but he isn’t bothered by the fact that he’s gay.
To quote from a much earlier post:
Saori has a crush on Nitori, and likes having him dressed up in girls’ clothing. Seya had a crush on Nitori originally because he thought that he was a she, now he dates Maho, but he’s still clearly a bit thrown off by Nitori – he blushes when he sees Maho trying to strip him and also before that when in conversation with him at school. And Nitori himself has a crush on a girl who wants to be a boy and often dresses as one.
But no one is sitting around working out how this complicates their orientations at all. The only person it comes up with at all is the aforementioned Mako-chan, and his is one of the most clear-cut: he’s gay, and he thinks that may be why he wants to be a girl. As the manga progresses, this take on it strengthens.
And then there’s Yuki and Shi-chan. Unfortunately, we don’t know very much about the early part of their relationship, but we do know that Shi-chan tried his best to protect Yuki from bullies in high school when Yuki did dress as a guy but wished to be a girl. Did Yuki also get bullied for seeming to be gay? Is Shi-chan straight, gay, or bisexual?
These questions aren’t answered, and I doubt they will be – because they don’t matter. Yuki and Shi-chan love each other. The end. It is that which matters.
Saori likes Nitori but wants him in girls’ clothing. Nitori likes girls… and a girl who identifies as a boy. Seya had a crush on Nitori but ends up dating his sister. Who cares what it meant about their orientation? The feeling matters, not the gender or whether the perceived gender differed from the sex.
It is interesting to view this, also, within the larger pantheon of Takako Shimura works. In Aoi Hana, there is one character who identifies as gay, and several characters who display both heterosexual and homosexual attractions. In Happy-Go-Lucky Days, a few characters identify as gay, and one identifies as straight but does some things that are not so straight; there are also just a lot of people who are involved with people but make no statement as to their orientation.
Some of this is a reflection of society – in “modernized” societies (e.g. where it is okay to at least some extent to ID as gay), people don’t usually put a name to their orientation of their own volition unless they are gay, since it is the deviation from the standard (in this case I mean ‘deviation’ and ‘standard’ in neutral ways – most people are straight; therefore, this would be a standard, and something different from that would be a deviation; think of it like statistics – ‘deviation’ is not a bad word in that). So straight people having sex with someone of the opposite sex isn’t going to sit around and say something like “I’m straight.” The only Shimura character who does does so because his twin brother is gay, so he feels a need to establish that he is not. Even though he ends up doing some things that aren’t really heterosexual in nature… although, yeah, often people will declare their heterosexuality even more strenuously as they are behaving in non-heterosexual ways.
But there’s also a bit of idealization in all of it as well. People kicking off their shoes and just rolling with things is the way Shimura may wish things are – coming back, once again, to gender not mattering in relation to attraction – but is isn’t largely the way things are. Most people will have a crisis if they are suddenly attracted to someone outside of the purview of their orientation. Most people are not well-adjusted enough to be okay with it. It is something they will have to adjust to… or something they won’t be able to and then will have issues about.
Of course, some may counter that Shimura does have characters who identify as gay and show no evidence to the contrary. Which is true. But since for these characters the fact that they like people of the same sex doesn’t give them angst, I argue that it is further evidence that Shimura thinks gender doesn’t matter much for attraction. People just love who they love! Peace and love, man! Bring out the doughnuts!
In other words: yes, Mako-chan may only like guys, but that he does isn’t hyper-relevant. It is the emotion, not the gender, that is of importance.
WOW! That ended up being wickedly long! Remember, folks: PEACE AND RABUUU~
EDIT: I just started re-reading Shimura’s Boku wa, Onna no ko since I couldn’t really remember what went on it since I read it so long ago. The basic story is that suddenly everyone on earth switches sexes. One of the characters talks about how the love someone for who they are, so the switch in sexes doesn’t bother them, but that not everyone was able to deal with it, including their spouse.