Ray Tanaka’s high-pitched giggle is infectious. Yet the 51-year-old bears visible signs of less humorous times. Scars peaking through tightly cropped hair are telltale signs of severe beatings at the hands of a former partner who had transitioned to male.
While Tanaka’s raggedy goatee is a symbol of masculinity, that girlish giggle is decidedly feminine. Tanaka identifies as genderqueer, or someone who defines their gender as being neither male nor female. The beatings Tanaka was subjected to were often sparked by the most trivial of triggers. The very first time the abuser threw punches, he said Tanaka rattled the table during dinner with friends. At barely 160 centimeters tall, Tanaka struggled to fight back.
“One of these days I could end up dead,” Tanaka remembers thinking. Tanaka remained passive for a year and a half, trying not to rock the boat. Part of the problem, Tanaka says, is that this kind of abuse is still taken far less seriously than beatings inflicted on women by their male spouses.
Although Japan passed the Act on the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims in 2001, the police have been slow to answer pleas for help. In terms of responding to sexual minority victims, police are grossly undertrained, lawyers and supporters say.
Police have allegedly told transgender or gay victims to “man up” and fight back, or put up with the violence and wait for it to pass. Men are sometimes bound by stereotype and believe it is shameful and weak to seek help. In cases involving violence among lesbian couples, police would try and convince the two partners to reconcile by telling them that “women can talk it over.”
“We need just one word, ‘protection,'” Kondo says. “No matter what gender you are, you have to tell the police you want protection and have no intention of reconciling with your abuser. Otherwise, they will try to send you back to your abuser.”Read more via Japan Times