Today is our fourth day in Taipei and it’s raining so we’re taking the opportunity to update our blog. It’s never too late!
Before we left for our Southeast Asia tour our friends in Tokyo told us that SEA is very gay-friendly and we shouldn’t worry too much about any anti-gay sentiments. After dealing with racist shit in the Balkans and worrying about being gay bashed in Russia, we were relieved to hear that we wouldn’t have to concern ourselves with those petty matters. Instead, we could stay focused on the truly important things, such as eating as much as possible while avoiding traveler’s diarrhea. Little did we know that not only were we safe from anti-gay bigots in Taipei, but we are convinced that it is center of the Asian lesbian universe.
As soon as we stepped on the plane to Taiwan, we noticed that there were a few lesbians around us. When we arrived in Taipei and started exploring the city with our straight friend we mentioned to her that we were surprised by all of the young lesbians roaming freely around Taipei. Our dear, naive straight friend said, “No. That’s just a girl who doesn’t know how to dress.” or “That’s a boy.” HAHAHAHA! Straight people are so funny.
We decided that it was our mission to help hone her gaydar, so I told her that we would start pointing out lesbians on the street and our code word would be “apple” so we don’t get caught screaming “lesbian” at anyone.
If it weren’t for the crazy night we had last night, Zagreb would’ve been just another unmemorable city on our travels. But first, how we got there.
We had planned to meet our friend Ching-I from New York in Croatia, and decided that Zagreb (the capital of Croatia) would be the most convenient place for her to fly into to start exploring the rest of this weirdly-shaped country. After a day of sightseeing around Zagreb, the three of us quickly realized that the city itself really wasn’t anything special. There weren’t any really notable landmarks or tasty food to distract us from the blandness of the city.
Since we spent the weekend in Zagreb, we decided to check out the only “queer-friendly” bar (that wasn’t a club) I could find on the internet. We had some time to kill so we watched “Gravity” in IMAX for a mere $9 (not as cheap as Tallinn, though) and then walked back to the bar.
Café Vimpi is a cozy bilevel bar/café with a narrow spiral staircase that is a deathtrap for drunk people. But there weren’t any accidents that night, and the three of us settled around a small table and were served by the friendly lesbian bartender. Groups of queer people started trickling in, but we’re shy and we kept to ourselves. After a round of 0.5L Radlers, we looked around and ordered Tomislav beers, what the locals seemed to be drinking.
Last night in Moscow — on our last night in the city — N and I had a homemade dinner with a traveling lesbian couple we had met in Irkutsk. Over delicious crepes (that they made) and wine, we talked about how the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) was poised to announce their decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) today, and swapped stories of immigration troubles as binational couples. The American woman had decided to leave the U.S. to be able to stay with her French partner and since both of them loved to travel, they have been continent-hopping for the past two years. But a job was waiting for the American back home, and her partner would only be able to stay in the U.S. for the duration of her tourist visa unless DOMA was overturned. As we sat and talked about the upcoming DOMA decision, we wavered between hope and not wanting to get our hopes up, just in case.
This uncertainty is what we — along with many other same-sex couples — have been living with. Last night I thought of my friends who are in the same predicament, all of those times we shared our concerns and tried to find ways around these restrictive laws. When N and I got tired of being in the rat race and decided to quit our jobs and travel for a year, we knew there was the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to come back right away unless I could secure another long-term visa. But despite this risk, we said, “Fuck it.” and did it anyway. Our friends back home reassured us that DOMA would be overturned and we would be back before we knew it, but in the back of my head I couldn’t help but think, “What if it isn’t?”
Today, after an 8-hour train ride from Moscow where I tried not to think about what was going on in the U.S., we arrived in St. Petersburg. I went online as soon as I could to find an email from the couple telling us to get some beer ready for a celebratory Facetime chat with them, now in Kiev. Additional emails from dear friends shared the same news. The New York Times confirmed everything. Facebook was full of jubilant status updates and shared articles about the SCOTUS decision on DOMA.
The fight goes on, but I want to savor this win for a little bit… With a cold Russian beer in my hand. Congratulations and cheers!
Yesterday was a perfect sunny spring day, and it couldn’t have been better weather for jubilant gayness at Tokyo Rainbow Pride. N and I met up with my high school friend Mai and made our way to Yoyogi Park. With this event coinciding with the long Golden Week holidays, we expected a bit of a crowd to have to fight through. We stepped off of the train at Harajuku Station and were swept along by a sea of people making their way through one of the busiest cities in Tokyo.
The event itself was held right by the NHK stage in the park, and the plethora of rainbow flags and signs made it easy to find. Having lived in the U.S. for so long, I had only seen rare glimpses of life as a queer native Japanese in Tokyo. So when I found out that we would be here for Tokyo’s pride parade, I was ecstatic. In the past, the organizers of this annual event had struggled with participation and interest from the LGBT community, so we were shocked by the number of people who showed up. Wow, Japan, when did you get so gay?