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Queer Art Workers Reflect: Hanako Wada Is Hosting LGBTQ Study Groups for Theater Folks

LGBTQ Pride month is now. Every day in June, we are celebrating the community by featuring one queer art worker and asking them to reflect on what this moment means to them.

Actor and theater-maker Hanako Wada (all images courtesy Hanako Wada; photo by Eiri Motoyoshi)

The month of June is a time to celebrate LGBTQ communities. It’s a moment to reflect on the rich history and culture of the queer community, as well as more recent advances made in the realm of civil liberties. This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many queer individuals are navigating greater risks to their health, safety, and livelihoods.

Cognizant of the need to stay connected and elevate queer voices amid uncertainty, Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one queer art worker per day on our website and asking them to reflect on what this time means to them. If you identify as a queer art worker, we’d love to hear from you. Click here to learn more about how to participate.

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What’s your name?

Hanako Wada

Where are you based currently?

Japan

Describe who you are and what you do

I am a stage actor by training, and I am a FtM transgender person. With a body that has not undergone hormone treatment or sex reassignment surgery, I am expressing myself as an actor. Aside from acting, I hold LGBTQ study groups for actors, playwrights, theatre directors, and producers. In the study sessions, I talk about the basic knowledge of LGBTQ culture and how these issues are treated in Japan, and the work environment for sexual minorities in the theater industry.

Actor and theater-maker Hanako Wada performing

Tell us about your greatest achievement or something you’ve done lately that you’re proud of.

In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of LGBTQ-themed TV drama series, movies, and stage productions in Japan. Unfortunately, however, there are many cases where the people involved in the production do not have basic knowledge [about these communities]. Works created with false perceptions enforce prejudice against us.

Many people also have the perception that there will naturally be no actual sexual minorities in the places they work in, even though such people appear in the work they produce. It is still something fictional for many people.

The power of film, drama, and theater is tremendous. That’s why I started this project, thinking that if the people who make those productions have the right knowledge ready to put into practice, they can also imagine that there are actual people like that in their workplace and therefore try to improve the working environment.

I see it as my very important activity, just as much as acting.

Actor and theater-maker Hanako Wada performing

Favorite ways to celebrate your queerness and community?

My favorite way to decorate a room is to put flowers in it.

What’s been top of mind for you lately?

I’m curious to see what the future of theatre will look like after the pandemic is over.

Talk to us about your immediate queer community/support systems. (Feel free to shout out other folks or organizations you think are doing important work.)

I don’t use this support for myself, but organizations such as Job Rainbow and Nizi-zu are wonderful resources for youth.

When I was a teenager, I wanted a safe place to share my problems, and I had a lot of questions about employment. I couldn’t even reach out to get help, so I think it’s great that these services for young people exist now.

Actor and theater-maker Hanako Wada leading an LGBTQ study group

How are you celebrating Pride Month this time around?

By decorating my room with flowers.

Are there ways you think queer artists and art workers could be better supported?

It’s important that those who provide support are equipped with basic knowledge about sexual minorities. I think that’s the best way to go about it. Because at the moment, there are people who want to support us, but they have no clue where to start. They often say, “I don’t know what to do.”

However, it is very difficult for people to openly declare “I want this” or “I want you to do that” every time. If those who are willing to support learn exactly what hurdles sexual minorities face and how to improve things, queer artists and art workers will be able to feel safer mentally and physically. I think the knowledge provides and promises a great place to be and thus everybody can focus on creation.

In the communities that you’re part of, what are you hoping to see shift in the future?

Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of films and drama productions featuring LGBTQ characters. But still, many people think that only heterosexual cisgender people exist in the reality.Of course, there are people who are not straight or not cisgender in places we work.We need to recognize that.

The lack of such recognition can be a bottleneck for sexual minorities and prevent them from concentrating on their work. I’m hoping that the awareness raises and more people recognize the reality (as much as they do in the fiction) in the future.

Actor and theater-maker Hanako Wada performing

What’s the first thing you’re planning to do when it feels safer to physically gather again?

1. I would like to restart gathering people for the LGBTQ study groups and hold them not only in urban areas but also in remote places.

2. I would like to create a stage production and present it in a theatre. Previously, productions that have been created about transgender people mainly focused on romantic and interpersonal relationships and conflicts with existing systems. On the other hand, feelings and conflicts about the mismatch between gender identity and biological sex, which is always present whether or not you have had the surgery, are not well portrayed and are not of interest [here]. It’s something that’s not visualized, so it’s neglected, but it’s very important to me. I would like to express this part of transgender life as my work on stage.

3. I want to have a drink with my friends!

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