Franklin Sussman '17: Pride

Franklin Sussman is one of the 2017-2019 Shansi Fellows at J.F. Oberlin University in Machida, Japan. This is their first year narrative.

Coming up this week is Tokyo Rainbow Pride, Tokyo’s celebration of LGBT community. In the spirit of celebration, I want to share a number of things I am proud of, both in my own life as a Shansi Fellow and in the world around me.

First and foremost, I am proud of the effort I have put into my personal engagement in the LGBT community in Tokyo and the rewards that have come from it. Since the end of last summer I have been volunteering in the Delivery Boys program at community center akta in Shinjuku Ni-chōme, the gay district of Tokyo. Our main activity is gathering on Friday nights and delivering free condoms to over half of the more than 300 bars and other establishments in the district. At first, I only had the job of counting and refilling the condoms into their dispensers, but I quickly gained the confidence for and was given the responsibility to also greet the bartenders and owners. I also helped in planning Deliveryfest, an annual party in March meant as a way of thanking the establishments that participate in the program. Though I had no event planning experience, I joined the drink committee. Things were stressful up until the last minute, but I was proud of my ability to work harmoniously in the group decision-making process in a Japanese setting. There were times when I felt like blurting out many opinions or just making an executive decision on a topic that was going nowhere, but I held back these urges and feel that it worked better in the end that I did. I am also proud to say that after over half a year of volunteering, I finally feel as if I have made some genuine friends from the group that I can interact with outside of the context of volunteering. It took a lot of time and patience, but it is rewarding to talk with people and realize that though the dominant cultures we come from may be very different, the LGBT communities we are a part of have a lot in common. I will be volunteering with this group at the Tokyo Rainbow Pride festival this weekend and know that only good things will come from my continued involvement.

Franklin's Deliveryfest Look

For the whole month of February, I took a trip to Indonesia by myself. I met up with the fellows in Yogyakarta and Banda Aceh, all of whom showed me the best hospitality I could have asked for, but for the majority of my trip I was on my own. Having traveled by myself in Japan a number of times, I thought the trip would go smoothly and be no problem for me. However, as my departure date approached, I realized I was leaving the foreign yet entirely familiar setting of Japan for a place truly foreign to me, and I became more nervous than I have been for something in a long time. I am proud of the way I handled my nervousness and turned it into excitement, and the trip ended up being memorable and fun while still providing some character-building challenges. In the end, it taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of putting yourself in increasingly new and exciting situations to keep things interesting and remind yourself of your adaptability.

A cat in Banda Aceh, Indonesia

With the new semester starting recently, I am proud of the improvements I have made as a teacher and even more so of my shift in attitude. I feel as if I no longer get so nervous about teaching nor do I take the success or failure of things so personally. This has let me step back, be more objective, and actually do a better job of everything. Teaching is still an interesting and challenging job for me, but I feel now like I am truly doing the best I can with it. I am also proud of some of the students I have come across at J. F. Oberlin University. From the students in my class who work part-time jobs, stay up until two in the morning, and still manage to stay awake in class to the students who come to all of our conversation circles and study-abroad prep sessions, the dedication of many of these students astounds me. The foolishness of others astounds me as well, but I choose not to dwell on that.

The Komodo Island airport suggestions box in Indonesia

The Deliveryfest Drink Menu

With the new semester starting recently, I am proud of the improvements I have made as a teacher and even more so of my shift in attitude. I feel as if I no longer get so nervous about teaching nor do I take the success or failure of things so personally. This has let me step back, be more objective, and actually do a better job of everything. Teaching is still an interesting and challenging job for me, but I feel now like I am truly doing the best I can with it. I am also proud of some of the students I have come across at J. F. Oberlin University. From the students in my class who work part-time jobs, stay up until two in the morning, and still manage to stay awake in class to the students who come to all of our conversation circles and study-abroad prep sessions, the dedication of many of these students astounds me. The foolishness of others astounds me as well, but I choose not to dwell on that.

I am also proud of Japan for some of the things I have seen on the news and in media recently. I saw a well-produced morning news segment on NHK, the national channel, about workplace sexual harassment which taught actionable steps for both employees and employers. Similarly, I have seen the #MeToo movement talked about recently as a top finance official has been held accountable for a sexual harassment scandal, and I was even able to have an open and positive discussion with a student on the topic. I have also seen more and more stories of LGBT politicians, legislators, and other high-profile people coming out proudly, and have seen discussion of marriage equality as more and more municipalities gear up to establish same-sex partnership systems. The most heartwarming manifestation of this has been the buzz around My Brother’s Husband, the mainstream breakout success by prominent gay comic artist Gengoroh Tagame which follows a Japanese man’s interactions with his estranged and recently deceased twin brother’s Canadian husband. Not only did I see the comic prominently displayed in some bookstores, but the series was turned into a TV drama on NHK’s premium channel which saw reasonable success and mainstream 

viewership as well. It might be misplaced

optimism combined with being in a queer

social bubble, but I hope its prominence can

educate some people about issues of homophobia and marriage equality in their own country.

This fellowship has not been solely positive experiences, but I know that when it is over I will look back and see only things to be proud of.

A poster for "My Brother's Husband"

Menu
Connect
  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Instagram Icon
  • Grey YouTube Icon
  • Grey LinkedIn Icon
Contact
50 N Professor 
Peters 103
Oberlin, OH 44074
(440) 775 - 8605
Shansi@oberlin.edu
Newsletter Subscription

© 2017 Oberlin Shansi, some rights reserved