I know we’re already three days in, but happy June! I guess this month is arguably an important month for BL fans if only because of the pun, but it’s 100% an important month for something that BL, as a form of entertainment, has ties in: LGBTQI pride. I know that this subject might come as a surprise to some, because while BL (and its female partner in crime, GL) technically deals with individuals who’re interested in the same sex, it does not necessarily try hard to speak for the gay community. Which is as it should be, since people who are not gay (which would be BL, since it’s generally written by—assumed—heterosexual females for a heterosexual female audience) should not necessarily speak for the gay community at large.
At most, BL can be considered a form of entertainment. It’s somewhat the romanticized equivalent of lesbian porn made for men—it’s interesting and fun but it doesn’t really try to teach you anything. Which is why many gay men take issue with BL; though it’s not written for a gay audience, it doesn’t try to inform nor even be realistic. I’m not one to say that’s a bad thing (because BL is entertainment and should be taken as it is, not just by its fans but also bystanders), but I won’t argue that gay men have every right to be uncomfortable with such a topic being taken out of their hands and treated in a way that may misinform about a community they’re a part of.
However, as a gay rights activist and someone of an alternative sexuality myself, I often try to find a way to connect my participation in and enjoyment of BL fandom with my place in a community that often shuns it. While I do know there are a fair handful of homophobic people in BL fandom, I still think it’s not a 100% bad genre. Admittedly, it was my finding and avidly reading in BL doujinshi at a young age (embarrassingly young, really) that opened my eyes to alternative sexualities and made it much easier to accept my own as I got older. Even just as a form of entertainment—one that is often unrealistic and cheesy—BL has done at least that much for me. And I think that’s important. I think that BL can do harm in some ways, but it can also do good in introducing its fans to empathy directed toward standing strong with those who are of alternative sexualities.
So I wanted to make this connection on my blog. I think it’s important not only to show that not all fans of BL consider gay men as just their entertainment but also—of course—as human beings, but also to introduce other fans to ways to help the gay community. Perhaps not all people who read my blog as going to necessarily care, which is a shame but you can’t really force people when the interest isn’t there. But for those who are interested, here is a nifty link on the top ten ways to help with gay rights. Also, here is a list of GLBT organizations you can volunteer for. More allies are always welcome!
Anyway, I wanted to end this with a call for discussion on BL manga that tries a bit harder to be truly ‘gay friendly’—whether it’s by including the idea of coming out, gay issues, gay bars, using the proper procedures in anal sex (lube!!), plots about society’s views of gay men, or even just the glorious absence of the fairly disheartening “thank god I’m not gay but I suddenly and randomly fell for my best friend” cliche. BL manga that tries hard to not just be entertainment, but also tie itself to and inform about gay culture in some way or another.
Yatteraneeze! by Akizuki Kou and Koide Mieko
while the amount of melodrama in this manga is fairly high (as expected of a BL manga from the 90s, tbh), it tries hard to touch on issues such as homophobia, AIDS and societies views of homosexuals. A BL classic.
Home Sick Baby by Achi Harufumi
I know I just talked about this one already, but I just love how it handles the gay main character getting shunned from his family after coming out to them. A really wonderful, bittersweet slice of realism that makes the ending all the more touching and important.
Koi no Kokoro ni Kuroi Hane by Yamashita Tomoko
as mangaupdates puts it, “a series of one-shots with a focus on how people around the protagonists deal with knowing someone who’s homosexual, rather than the gay relationship itself.” In fact, almost all of Yamashita Tomoko’s BL publications are similar—dealing with homosexuality as viewed by society, the guilt and fear that comes with not following society’s norms, and coming out to those around you. Two others in particular that I recommend by her are Koi no Hanashi ga Shitai and Illumination.
Usotsuki wa Shinshi no Hajimari by Matsuo Marta
deals vaguely with the issues of social status requiring a man to marry even though he’s gay. Granted, Paul loves and cares for his wife and daughter—all the while having various affairs with men on the side.
Itoshi no Nekokke by Kumota Haruko
this one isn’t perfect since it’s a straight man dating a gay man, but I just love the inclusion of many things such as the gay scene (all of Mii’s gay friends and the clubs he frequents), homophobia from outside sources (the landlady and Hino in particular), promiscuity and various other topics. It’s all handled in a very lighthearted, BL-ish way but I like that touch of realism. While many slice-of-life BL just brush the fact that they’re both men under the rug as if it’s a side-plot, there’s constantly a high awareness of Mii’s sexuality in particular and Kei’s journey toward coming to terms with his attraction to his male friend. Kumota’s Nobara, as well, deals with a man coming out to his wife of many years after he feels he can no longer hide his sexuality.
Akarui Kazoku Keikaku by Morozumi Sumitomo
it’s mostly the first story that’s pretty great as far as trying to be more realistic goes—Shibutani is able to technically date women but it’s not until he meets Hirofumi that he really feels a true emotional connection. Hirofumi has known he’s gay all his life and even had to transfer schools because of bullying. In true romantic BL style the two stay together for four years even after high school ends, and the story also deals with them coming out as a couple to their families. It’s a really great story. Later on in the book there’s also a story that’s quite in-depth about anal sex, and it’s also very cute.
Anyway, like I said before, BL should really never be taken as a tell-all genre for the gay community. The men in BL are almost never really like gay men. (Really, most men in manga are nothing like real, living men.) However, I think this is a good month to discuss BL that at least tries to be informative and empathetic aside from just entertaining. What are you ladies’ favorite BL manga that try to be more realistic to gay lifestyles? Any recommendations?