LETTER FROM TOKYO
The success of the film Midnight swan (“The midnight swan”) currently in Japan shines the spotlight on a socially sensitive subject: the prejudices suffered by transgender people in the Archipelago. Directed by Eiji Uchida, it is showing in more than a hundred cinemas across the country and attracts a particularly young audience.
The notoriety of the filmmaker, who directed Love and Other Cults (2017), and especially the main actor, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi who was the star of the famous J-pop group, SMAP, is not for nothing in this success which is also explained by the phenomenon ” genderless danshi “- the boys (danshi) sans-genre – currently fashionable.
With their androgynous look, teens from trendy neighborhoods seek to ward off the masculinity that society expects of them: the “genderless boy” can be straight, gay, bi or indifferent. Most are unaware of the cost of going beyond and shying away from societal standards for becoming transgender. “I tried to shed light on the discrimination faced by transgender people. No law condemns this social ostracism, in particular to find work ”, explains director Eiji Uchida.
Although transgender people have become more visible in Japanese society where LGBTQ sexual minorities (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, queers) are more accepted, the film shows the prejudices they still suffer. They are often forced to leave their families, where their inclinations are condemned, to go to work in the world of entertainment (bars, cabarets) if they cannot find another occupation.
A long and rich tradition of cross-dressing
This is the case of the main character of Midnight swan, Nagisa, young transgender who works in a cabaret in the red light district of Shinjuku in Tokyo. Nagisa goes to take Ichika, a little girl, a distant relative, mistreated by her mother. The little girl has only one dream: to become a ballerina. Moved and discovering a maternal instinct, Nagisa seeks a job outside the nightlife to finance her dance lessons but her quest comes up against closed doors of companies. With her marital status remaining that of a man, she desperately seeks to be accepted as a woman.
Transidentity is loaded with ambiguity in Japan. On the one hand, society seems benevolent for transsexuals and transvestites (baptized new half) who participate in many mainstream television shows but, on the other hand, it confines them to a certain role, in entertainment. Japan, which does not recognize same-sex marriage, confines transgender people to the margins.
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