Necktie nightmare: narrating gender in contemporary Japan
...the thing I hated most of all was the necktie.
When I wore a necktie, there was just no doubt that I was a man.
The image was of a salaryman! The mainstay of the house! The symbol of manhood!
These are the words of Nomachi Mineko in the autobiographical account of her transition from male to female. The book (adapted from a blog) appeared in late 2006 under the title O-kama dakedo OL yattemasu (I'm Queer But I'm An Office Lady). The book's publication coincided with a range of mainstream representations of trans-gendered lives - in television dramas, documentaries, memoirs and autobiographies. The year 2006 was roughly 10 years after the prohibition of gender-reassignment surgery was lifted in Japan and this decade saw greater visibility of gender-variant individuals in the mainstream media. Most descriptions of trans-gendered lives in Japan had, until then, placed them firmly in the entertainment industry. Nomachi's book is unusual in presenting a performance of femininity that takes place in the least glamorous site of contemporary life - the office- in one of the least glamorous occupations: clerical work. By portraying a trans-gendered life in a mainstream workplace rather than contained in the entertainment industry, Nomachi provided a challenge to existing ways of representing gender variance. The tone is conversational and the text is complemented by cute, comical illustrations. With text and illustrations, there are often several parallel narratives in progress on any one page.
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