Pride Month

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.

For instance:

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?

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24 responses to “Pride Month”

  1. Barbara (kokiden) says :

    Thanks for the lovely recommendations! And for the links suggestion ways to show support for gay rights.

    I don’t think I’ve met any BL-loving homophobes. Can I be naive and say I’m a bit shocked?

    To me, BL plays a role in supporting gay rights by driving home the message that gay men are our brothers whose rights to love should be protected! I love the idea of thousands of women across the US cherishing gay rights in their hearts and having those rights reaffirmed every time they read a BL manga.

    • ふう子 says :

      No problem! If you have any to recommend, please feel free to share. :>

      I mostly see open homophobia in the younger fans, who’re probably still not sure how to be interested in their fandom while nonetheless being pressured from outside sources (family and peers) that homosexuality is unnatural. It’s a bit more rare these days—though I’m admittedly not in fandom so much now as I used to be—but I used to often see phrases like “I’m okay with BL since it’s fictional, but I think actual homosexuality is a sin” and also a lot of bashing of GL and yuri since it’s about lesbian relationships. Luckily, I think as most fans of BL grow up they become more understanding and empathetic and much less likely to still follow such thought patterns.

      • Barbara (kokiden) says :

        Oh I definitely haven’t seen that. To my view, them’re dangerous words. Because most of the BL fans I know are definitely loving their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters (in a non-sexual way) LOL

  2. Kei says :

    <3 bkm to check these out later. I'm not sure if I've read Yatteraneeze! before but it's nice to see a 90s series make it on the list. XD;

    • ふう子 says :

      You should read it! I generally don’t like melodramatic manga which is why I don’t read much of the earlier stuff, but I still really enjoyed Yatteraneeze! :>

  3. Kery says :

    I really liked the part in “Dear Green~Hitomi no Ou no wa~” by Fujiyama Hyouta where Otoumi tells his sister about his relationship with Yukari (Vol 3, chapter 20). He said something like, it’s better to have someone in the family who is on their side when they eventually come out to their parents.

    That scene made such a big impression on me that I based one of my essays in my final exam (the topic was on homosexuality in modern society) on the issues that could be distilled from it… which I shall not go into right now. Anyway I got an A or A+ for my finals so my professor must have liked it too, haha.

    Also, Nekota Yonezou’s “Elektel Delusion” vol 2 deals with precisely the point where a BL-loving girl actually stumbles upon a gay relationship within close proximity – that of her brother and their neighbour. She was actually unable to accept it at first (banning them from seeing each other after school, etc) but… well, I won’t spoil it for you xD

    • ふう子 says :

      For some reason I totally forgot about Dear Green, even though I just reread it less than a month ago. orz Thanks for the reminder! I really loved that scene too. Those two were such a great couple.

      Haha congrats on your essay getting an A! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic if you ever feel like typing them up.

      Ohh I haven’t read that chapter of Elektel Delusion yet, iirc. Thanks for the heads-up!

      • Kery says :

        Hmm well the gist of my essay was something like this:

        1. There are different kinds of homosexuals in the world – those who have come out and are proud of it, those who have come out and are still fumbling to find their place in society, those who don’t dare to come out, and those who don’t even dare to admit that they are homosexuals (among other permutations).

        2. We should be particularly concerned about the last two types. There is fear on both sides, in the sense that (conservative) society is afraid of homosexuality because they don’t know enough about it, and homosexuals are afraid of society because society is unaccepting of them.

        3. Modern society (i.e. everyone) should cautiously put aside its fears and bridge the chasm. With communication and understanding, perhaps we can create a world where homosexuals aren’t afraid of identifying themselves, where they feel safe with their sexual orientation, where they know that they will be accepted rather than outcast.

        …. Well, something like that. It was written over a year ago under extremely stressful exam conditions so I don’t really remember the particulars. ^^;;

  4. sheep says :

    thanks you so much for the recomendations, to an extent i like all the cutsie cliches in BL but the whole “i’m not gay but lets have sex anyways” thing all ways bugged me. i really liked Usotsuki wa Shinshi no Hajimari, but i have a feeling it was written by an american, or at least some one who spent part of their life in the states. thanks again

    • ふう子 says :

      Yeah, I also really still enjoy all the really cheesy cliched stories to an extent. But I admit, I grit my teeth whenever something homophobic is said. Luckily it doesn’t happen TOO often, but it happens enough to be disheartening. /;w;\

      Matsuo Marta does really seem to know a lot about American culture, I agree. It does make you wonder how she learned all that—either she’s amazing at cultural studies or she’s had first-hand experience somehow.

  5. Cozza says :

    Great article, Ami! You truly are someone trying to make a difference, even if it’s just through BL. It’s great! :D And thanks for the rec list, I’m always up for reading content that takes LGBT issues seriously.

    In addition to what you have, I’d also add Yamashita Tomoko’s Dining Bar Akira (slow paced — characters aren’t rushing into things, I suppose). Also Tadayoedo Shizumazu, Saredo Naki mo Sezu by Yoneda Kou. I think this one piece is marvelous – it deals with rejection/unrequited love.

    • ふう子 says :

      Thank you! And awww, you give me too much credit, seriously.

      It’s been so long since I read that Yamashita Tomoko title—definitely time for a reread! And I agree re: Yoneda Kou’s manga. That one has such a powerful plot; a great read!

  6. Haruka says :

    What a great article!

    I’m always surprised when people say BL is targeted towards women because I know at least 5 gay men in real life who are fans of BL. I watch ‘Sekaiichi Hatsukoi’ with a gay friend of mine every week. He tells me he likes BL because in the BL world, gay relationships seem normal and he hopes one day, in the future, gay people in real life can be like that. I get what he means.

    Anyway, to add to your list. I think “New York New York” is a great manga that deals with the realistic aspects of homosexuality. That manga is so underrated. No one knows about it. :x

    • ふう子 says :

      it’s cool that you have so many gay friends who’re okay with it! Most often, when I see essays about BL from a gay male point of view (both Japanese and American) they only have bad things to say about the genre. But I agree with your friend–yeah, BL is incredibly romanticized and doesn’t show the real struggles of gay men, but at least (most of the time) it’s a genre that treats homosexuality as something normal and widely accepted in doing so.

      Thanks for the rec!

  7. Jada says :

    After seeing you had written up about it on tumblr, I couldn’t wait for this to pop up! Great post as always Ami :) As someone who stumbled upon GL at a young age (I was like, 7/8?) and then BL shortly after, I can say that they’re the reasons why I didn’t grow up closed minded in my close minded family and why I can be so accepting of my own sexuality (whatever it may be, I don’t know yet really haha). As I delved deeper into the LGBT community and the issues dealing with it these past several years, I noticed my choices in BL changed as well. I was more interested in stories that had men with realistic features, had more realistic stories, dealt with issues pertaining to gay sex etc. And frankly, I think this preference of mine is still there, but enough of my babbling! Leaving my few recs:

    Surf Junkie by Mika Sadahiro – it includes orgy, party that leads to an orgy, ex sefures, STDs, condom and lube usage, the importance of testing yourself

    Hachiue no Juunin by Kikka Furutsuji – one of the stories deals with being a gay couple and the thought of wanting children another chapter deals with seeing an ex boyf marrying a woman possible sabotage of said marriage

    Elektel Delusion by Nekota Yonezou – already said, but the 2nd volume really brought out the issue of wanting to have sex and the preparation it takes to engaging in it– knowing what to do and how to do it, prep for penetration, safe sex, first time embarrassment.

    I’ll stop here. Need to reread them now pahaha.

    • ふう子 says :

      Oh wow, that young? Haha you beat me, definitely–I think I was at least 10-11 when I started reading Gundam Wing doujinshi. But I’m glad GL and BL were the catalyst that allowed you to grow up to be more open about sexuality even if your family wasn’t so accepting of it.

      Also, thank you for the recommendations! :> I forgot all about that Hachiue no Juunin one—I think I felt so strongly about that first story that, no matter how amazing the stories after were, it was hard for me to properly remember the others. orz

  8. Midnightveil says :

    Hi Fuuko, great post, I admire your efforts and enjoy your blog very much! I think appreciation of BL manga evolves with age… growing out of the sparkly stuff to the more story-centric, and finally we want something we can connect with more than just drool over. This is the same for other genres, too. One’s tastes can only be stuck at Naruto and Bleach for so long hehe.

    • ふう子 says :

      I agree that your tastes kind of change with age—admittedly, I do still enjoy some of the cheesier works but sometimes even I can’t help but roll my eyes when I’m reading more cliche-filled manga. orz I guess sometimes it depends on my mood, though. Either way, I’ve come to prefer BL that has a more realistic, relatable atmosphere to it.

  9. Victoria says :

    One series in the same vein that also comes to mind is “Kinou Nani Tabeta?” though technically it’s not BL at all. For those that don’t know it’s a slice of life story about a gay couple framed through what they have for dinner. It runs in Morning, a very popular seinen magazine, which is why I think it’s such a big deal. It reaches an audience not looking for it and subtly brings up stuff like hiding your orientation from coworkers. It is mostly about the food though but I just think it’s realism is through the roof (for better or for worse – it definitely isn’t aimed at traditional BL fans) and I love the idea that slightly homophobic men who happen to be foodies end up drawn to it before realizing it’s about a gay couple. /cue maniacal laughter

    • ふう子 says :

      oh wow, to be honest I generally don’t read works by Yoshinaga Fumi since I’m not the biggest fan of her art, but I’ll definitely have to check that one out. I love how it’s in a seinen magazine, especially for the points you mentioned—perhaps it’ll unintentionally open up some of the more homophobic young men to the struggles of gay couples.

      Now that you mention it, there’s also “Seishun Sobbat”–another ‘BL’-ish manga that rugs in a seinen magazine. Sadly I’ve only seen the first two volumes but it was fairly interesting as well, though I think it was less ‘realistic’ than “Kinou Nani Tabeta?” sounds.

  10. sillygrl1990 says :

    Great post! Thank you very much for all the information and recommendations. I agree that BL is more of a form of entertainment, but it’s good to see others addressing real-life sexuality issues. I think some of the more bitterly realistic series have helped open my mind to homosexuality and some of the pain that comes with it, instead of just viewing BL as well…porn, to be blunt. Anyways, keep up the good work!

  11. LeeNoriega says :

    I’m so late with the comment I’ve already forgotten what I originally wanted to say D:

    I wanted to recommend to add “Kyuuso wa Cheese-something” (sorry, I can never remember its full title and the title of its sequel xD). It’s a bit nut, but I personally think it’s a very good example of how heterosexual men look at homosexualism. The main character is so reluctant to admit he’s become gay that he even marries again later on. I think it’s realistic in the part of accepting/rejecting sexual minorities.

    All in all, I didn’t know June was known for that! Thank you for the info as always!

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