Girls’ Club

“Such is the beauty of Girls’ Club – there is an im­mense feel­ing of friend­ship and open­ness. There is also an en­dear­ing feel­ing of flu­id­ity, gen­der and sex­u­al­ity – it doesn’t mat­ter who you are, or how you iden­tify, the club is a wel­com­ing and friendly en

Gay Times Magazine - - Contents - WORDS AND IM­AGES laura lewis TRANS­LA­TION miho haraguchi

As you take the lift from street level in Shin­juku, Tokyo, to the fourth floor of a grey, dark build­ing, it’s hard to be­lieve that a few me­tres away is a wel­com­ing and cosy bar. As the front door opens, the pretty pink so­fas, cute stuffed toys, and glis­ten­ing bar sud­denly come into view. Am­bi­ent light­ing is punc­tu­ated with twin­kling fairy lights, and the room feels warm and homely. This is Girls’ Club, a unique club for trans peo­ple, tucked away in the heart of Shin­juku Ni­chome, Tokyo’s gay dis­trict.

Girls’ Club – or On­nanoko Club in Ja­panese – was started sev­eral years ago by its owner, Moca, as a safe space for trans peo­ple to come to drink, make friends, and, per­haps most im­por­tantly, re­ceive help if needed with make-up and dress­ing up. Moca re­alised that not ev­ery­one who wants to dress up has ac­cess to cloth­ing and makeup, and that some peo­ple might be shy or un­knowl­edge­able re­gard­ing how to ap­ply prod­ucts, or how to achieve their look. With this in mind, the club boasts a large se­lec­tion of women’s cloth­ing, shoes, make-up, wigs, and hair prod­ucts that all cus­tomers can try at their leisure.

There are games and comics for peo­ple to help them­selves to. A large make-up sta­tion with mir­ror and chairs, and a dress­ing room, adorn one side of the room. All staff at the club dress in women’s cloth­ing, whether male, fe­male, straight, gay or bi – and for 4,000 Yen (just un­der £27) cus­tomers can buy a spe­cial Girls Club make-over.

Moca ex­plains that af­ter tran­si­tion­ing, and fol­low­ing on from or­gan­is­ing suc­cess­ful cos­play events, she re­alised there was a gap in the mar­ket for smaller venues that of­fered help with choos­ing a look. Beauty sa­lons were ex­pen­sive, and she wanted as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to have the ex­pe­ri­ence of dress­ing up, some­thing easy to ac­cess and some­thing friendly and very open.

Such is the beauty of Girls’ Club – there is an im­mense feel­ing of friend­ship and open­ness. There is also an en­dear­ing feel­ing of flu­id­ity of gen­der and sex­u­al­ity

– it doesn’t mat­ter who you are, or how you iden­tify, the club is a wel­com­ing and friendly en­vi­ron­ment. Kuriko, man­ager of Girls’ Club, ex­plains there are many types of peo­ple who come to the club – it is not solely for trans peo­ple. Cou­ples who en­joy cos­play, celebri­ties who re­quire some pri­vacy, of­fice work­ers who en­joy the abil­ity to have more free­dom in the sub­jects they want to talk about – there is a won­der­fully di­verse mix­ture of clien­tele. Some cus­tomers are trans­ves­tites, some are trans women, some are cu­ri­ous straight, gay or bi. She says: “There is a dress­ing room for guys who want to dress as a wo­man. There are also lock­ers

avail­able 24/7 any time if they want to dress and go out dur­ing the days.”

The club boasts sev­eral rails of fe­male cloth­ing, heels and ac­ces­sories and cus­tomers are en­cour­aged to take a look and try on dif­fer­ent out­fits.

Michiko, a reg­u­lar cus­tomer of the club, ex­plains how much she en­joys the at­mos­phere. She reg­u­larly makes the hour­long journey from outer Tokyo as there is “nowhere quite like this in the world!” She en­joys the free­dom to talk openly about dif­fi­cult sub­jects. While with each gen­er­a­tion Ja­pan be­comes more and more open, there are still many sub­jects it is not con­sid­ered re­spect­ful to talk openly about. Yet Girls’ Club pro­vides a safe, and open space for peo­ple to talk and drink with each other.

Yuki, one of the bar staff, who dresses some­where be­tween drag and cos­play for work, used to be a show­girl and says that Moca is a pi­o­neer for set­ting up Girls’ Club. He and and his col­league Kitty de­scribe the ful­fill­ing and sat­is­fy­ing feel­ing they get when help­ing peo­ple with dress­ing up and makeup for the first time. Help­ing cus­tomers find their po­ten­tial and new style is an en­rich­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for cus­tomers and staff alike.

As Moca chats and laughs with cus­tomers at the bar, it’s clear to see that this is a joy­ful and friendly place. While it is be­com­ing more and more ac­cept­able to be openly gay or trans in Ja­pan, cer­tain out­dated stigma from older gen­er­a­tions mean that places like Girls’ Club are very im­por­tant. And Moca’s ad­vice for any­one want­ing to try dress­ing up? “Just give it a go. We will teach you ev­ery­thing.

It’s easy!”

“While it is be­com­ing more and more ac­cept­able to be openly gay or trans in Ja­pan, cer­tain stigma from older gen­er­a­tions mean places like Girls’ Club are very im­por­tant.”

Re­cently, I found my­self at­tracted to a trans man. But he doesn’t have a pe­nis. And that’s a game changer for me. So now, I sit here, and now, I’m trans­pho­bic. @pee­jay­bren­nan

I just took a three-year-old Buz­zfeed quiz ti­tled How Trans­pho­bic Are You? What struck me the most was how ob­vi­ous the ques­tions seemed, how quickly our so­ci­ety has adapted in re­la­tion to this is­sue. No, it’s not OK to ask some­one about their surg­eries with­out per­mis­sion. And I’m sorry, but drag queens and trans peo­ple are clearly not the same, duh. By to­day’s stan­dards the quiz is re­fresh­ingly un­nec­es­sary. I fin­ished and breathed a sigh of re­lief as I was told that I was not trans­pho­bic. Well, if Buz­zfeed tells me, it must be true.

I took this quiz for a very spe­cific rea­son. Re­cently, I found my­self at­tracted to a trans man. I find his de­ter­mi­na­tion to live a full and happy life in the face of some pretty harsh ad­ver­sity at­trac­tive. And he is not only liv­ing, he is thriv­ing. He’s hand­some. He works with his hands and can make fur­ni­ture (very Nordic in its de­sign, which I love). He can act; we’ve acted to­gether and I think he’s great, and I’m very judg­men­tal when it comes to act­ing. He can take a damn good photo, and not in a va­pid In­sta­gram THOT trap kind of way. I mean, he can frame a pic­ture and cap­ture an au­then­tic feel­ing or moment. He loves his dog and there is noth­ing that tells me more about one’s heart than their love of an­i­mals.

But he doesn’t have a pe­nis. And that’s a game changer for me. So now, I sit here, and now, I’m trans­pho­bic.

When I was deeply in the closet and would fan­ta­sise about liv­ing an openly gay life, hav­ing sex was al­ways a part of that fan­tasy. And guess what? I re­ally like dicks. I know that sounds ba­nal, maybe, but it’s the truth. Part of what I un­der­stood my sex­ual lib­er­a­tion would in­volve was contact with penises. The joy was in the thought that I could touch an­other man’s gen­i­talia, more­over he would want me to touch his pe­nis. I used to imag­ine what that would be like. I even used to shy away from look­ing at an­other guy’s pe­nis in the gym be­cause I knew how much I was at­tracted to them.

When I was 12, I was sent to the locker room to find a class­mate who had dis­ap­peared af­ter gym class. The high school var­sity base­ball team was get­ting changed for prac­tice and de­cided to have some fun with this chubby be­spec­ta­cled 12 year old wandering around the room shout­ing, ‘Andrew?’ over and over.

One guy, who was ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful, called for my at­ten­tion. I turned around to find him with his huge dick in his hand, swing­ing it like a lasso, shout­ing, ‘You like this? Yeah, look at you, you love this, don’t you?’ It was ha­rass­ment, it made me feel sick and scared, and I ran out of the locker room.

I did like it. That’s why I ran. He saw right through me and all I was do­ing was walk­ing around. I ran away be­cause I was ashamed that I liked his pe­nis, that him flash­ing me was ac­tu­ally one of the most thrilling moments of my life. It reaf­firmed in me that I was gay and that this pu­berty thing I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing was only go­ing to get more com­pli­cated and was def­i­nitely go­ing to suck.

I’m be­ing told that my at­trac­tion to spe­cific male gen­i­talia (ie: a pe­nis) has roots in so­ci­ety’s trans­pho­bia or cis­sex­ism. At this moment, af­ter re­ally re­flect­ing on it, I dis­agree.

But then, in my mind, I place my­self in front of my trans crush and I imag­ine telling him to his face that I wouldn’t want to date him be­cause he doesn’t have a pe­nis… and it feels wrong. It feels hurt­ful. It feels trans­pho­bic.

I never un­der­stood the wife who com­plained about hav­ing to blow her hus­band. I’d al­ways want to raise my hand and vol­un­teer as tribute. I love suck­ing dick. How would you like to wake up to a blowjob ev­ery sin­gle morn­ing? That’s how much I en­joy pe­nis.

I’ve been scared to say this out loud be­cause trans­pho­bia is cer­tainly not some­thing I want to be a part of. But I feel my iden­tity, one that I’m still strug­gling with, one that I still some­what hate, is be­ing shaped into some­thing else with­out my ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion. All of a sud­den, what it means to be gay seems to have shifted. I could be wrong, this could be just my flawed per­cep­tion, but I am try­ing my best to keep up while re­main­ing hon­est and kind to my­self.

I spent my life hat­ing my­self for lik­ing dick and in a way it’s start­ing to feel like that all over again.

PJ BREN­NAN

I like dick. Am I trans­pho­bic?

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