13

Our coverboy this time is our own nabeshirt model, 13 (Hitomi)! She's appeared on our postcards and flyers at nabebars all over Japan!

FTM Model -- 13First off, "13" is not read "thirteen", but rather "Hitomi" (in Japanese, "1" is "hito" and "3" is "mi"). But why in the world did you change it just to numerals?

It feels a bit strange using my real name. But when I was living back at home, people pronounced it differently. If you say 'Hitomi', it has a really girlish sound to it, and I don't think it really suits me.

I thought about just changing my name completely, but I know that I'd just bungle it up and get confused by all my different names. So, while I'm comfortable with my real name, I thought maybe I'd just change the way it's written and that would take care of it.

Plus, my birthday is on the 13th, and 13 is an easy to remember number, so I thought it would be fitting.

I see. It certainly does seem appropriate. You are definately an unforgettable person. I just thought perhaps it had some relation with Mitsuru (396) or Juku (19).

Nope, there's absolutely no relation! [Laughs]

So when did you start using the name "13"?

Um... maybe about two years ago?

Sexuality

I'm 13I see. So, can you tell us about your sexuality?

Sexuality... um... I'm not sure. Butch lesbian?

And when did you realize what your sexuality is?

I have the feeling that I liked girls ever since I was little. But I can really recall that, once I started high school, I really fell for a certain girl. There was this group of girls standing in front of me, and one of them caught my eye. We ended up dating for a year and then breaking up.

That was my first girlfriend. I lived with my family way out in the middle of nowhere, so I stayed single the whole time until I graduated from high school.

Up until now, our NABAY Coverboys have all been transgender or FTM. But when you described your own sexuality, you said "Lesbian". Do you consider yourself to be female?

Um... yeah, I guess so. I don't want to stick myself into a certain category, but yeah.

I feel like I have a man's soul, but that's not everything.

A man's soul?

Yes, definately.

When I was little, there were times when I thought I wanted to become a man. At some point that just came into my head. I wanted to be a man.

But, I also don't want to mess with my body. So I don't think I could consider myself a transsexual.

So, if you could be reincarnated as a man...?

That would be great! Of course, I'd have to be a good-looking man [laughs].

How do you present yourself in society? Do you come on as really masculine or feminine or neutral?

Definately neutral. I haven't really come out yet and all.

I don't think of myself as a man, and, although there are masculine parts to me, I am, in the end, a woman. Plus, I don't have the nerve to try to pass myself off completely as a man.

Do you have any FTM friends?

No, not really. At least, nobody who's gone through with surgery. I have drag-king friends, though.

Of course of course.

Passing

Now, as you are one of our NABAY models, I'd like to ask you, how long have you been wearing our shirts?

Only about a month.

13And what do you think of them?

AWESOME! I always go without a bra, and so there are times when I feel self-conscious about my chest.

You never wear a bra?

Never!

What about when you go to work?!

NEVER! [laughs] Though now I wear my NABAY to work.

I see!

But, in Japan, it's considered somewhat rude to go around without a bra. Have you ever run into trouble because of it?

Yeah, sometimes people whisper that I'm being too revealing to all the guys around me...

Ah, that kind of trouble...

But yeah, I do feel a bit bad about being socially unacceptable in that sense and kind of causing problems amongst others...

In the end, when I'd try to hide my chest normally, I'd slump my shoulders. And I know that's not good for me or my posture. But since I've been wearing a NABAY, I've noticed that my posture is much better than it was before.

To be honest, though, I don't wear it everyday. Only when I wear tight or thin clothes, or when I wear something that won't cover my chest well enough.

And what kind of clothes do you think cover your chest well enough?

Just really thick or heavy clothes in general.

Before you became a customer, what kind of image did you have of NABAYs?

Really tight, kind of hard to move, hard to breathe... I'd look at one of my drag friends wear a binder, and I just got that impression. But in reality, it's actually completely comfortable!

Speaking of moving in your clothes, do you do any kind of sports?

I've been playing basketball since I was in elementary school. I play forward. Right now, I'm on a team with one of my coworkers.

Do you wear your NABAY when you play basketball?

Eh... during practice, I just go without a bra. For games I wear a sportsbra. Next game, I'm going to see what it's like with a nabeshirt instead!

Please do!

But, if you go no-bra in sports, don't you find that your chest moves around too much?

I guess it would, but I don't have enough chest for that! I think it's more just like bee-stings... [laughs]

Work

And what do you do for work?

I work in a really conservative office. It's my sixth year there.

Funky 13Looking at your funky image, I would've thought you were some kind of stylist or designer! I'm a bit surprised!

Yeah, people always say I never look the part.

And have you been to college?

When I was 19, I took my tests and went to a technical school.

So you've been planning for your future, I see. Very responsible. What kind of things do you do at your job?

Office work, at a desk.

And are you satisfied with your work?

Right now, I'm completely satisfied. I feel like my job and my company really fit my personality.

What kind of clothes do you wear to work?

Ah, just about like I am right now.

You can wear your regular street clothes to work? With all your piercings, and color contacts and everything?

Yeah, just like I am now.

And your coworkers and bosses don't complain?

Nope. Everybody's really cool about it. At least, right now, I'm in everyone's good graces.

Everyone else is pretty stiff collared, and I'm the only one in my office who wears stuff like this. So I think a lot of people feel somewhat refreshed when they see me. I get double-takes a lot, so it kind of makes me feel famous.

I see. Do you think it's the kind of place where you wouldn't have to hide your sexuality?

That's... a bit more difficult. Right now, I'd have to say 'not yet'.

Coming Out

So have you come out to your coworkers at all?

Just to some of my friends there. About five people. Just kind of like, 'Yeah, actually, I'm dating this girl...' kind of thing.

And what were there reactions?

'Really? Hm...'

That's all? Are the people you came out to at work women?

All the people at my office are women.

And, outside of work, about how many people have you come out to?

I can't say 100% yet... maybe 70% or so?

What about your family?

My little brother is the only one who knows. He's the next below me, so when we went out together one time, I brought my girlfriend along.

And what was his reaction?

Just kind of 'Ah. I see.' It seems like nobody's surprised when I come out!

Maybe people just thought you were lesbian already. Do you get upset if people think you look like a lesbian?

Yeah, I guess so... But what can you do? I mean, that's who I am!

Do you plan on coming out to your parents?

Not right now. It would be too much of a shock, I think. They're very old fashioned!

First, they'd just be like 'Huh? What's a lesbian?', and I'd have to go and explain what that means. Then they'd probably just get kind of shocked and that would be the end of the conversation.

I see. You let them know about your piercings and your boyish looks, but to come out about your homosexuality would be too much of a shock.

Exactly. Everytime I go home, they always say 'So why don't you start dressing more feminine? When are you going to get married?' and such.

I always just have to answer 'Yes mom, I know...'

When did you first come out to someone?

When I was in college. I couldn't forget about the girl from high school, and I was feeling down. I was talking to a friend from high school, and I just said 'You remember that girl? I still like her, even now...'

I guess that was the first time.

The reaction I got was just like 'Yeah, that's what I thought.' I never told anyone about that girl, but I guess everyone just knew it anyways.

What happened with that girl?

We're actually friends now! We've been good friends for about ten years now.

What has your lovelife been like since then?

Meh... I can count my partners with both hands. In fact, a lot of the people I say I've dated are pretty much straight. Friends of friends and such. Both straight and gay friends.

Relationships

What are your friends like?

I have mostly lesbian friends. Then maybe gay friends next. I tend to hang out with guys a lot.

Your friendships are mainly in the queer community?

Definately. I wouldn't say I have a lot of friends, but the people I do meet tend to be in the queer community somehow.

Do you think your straight friends and your lesbian friends are different somehow? That the friendship is different somehow?

Even if I come out, I don't think my straight friends fully understand. So it's just much easier to be with gay and lesbian friends.

But, of course, I think having straight friends is really important too. I don't tend to choose my friends based on their sexuality.

It seems that you also do work as a go-go dancer at Drag-Star, a women only event in Shinjuku. When was the first time you started going out to gay and drag parties?

When I was about 21. Before I came to Tokyo, I'd heard that Shinjuku 2-chome was a big gay and queer hangout spot, and I wanted to go see what it was all about.

Every now and then, one of my coworkers would take me out to a drag bar not in 2-chome, so one time I said that, since I had never been, I'd like to go to 2-chome and see what it was like. She hadn't been there either, so we made plans for our first trip.

We had no idea what places were good or anything, so we went to an internet cafe and looked up some lesbian bars. And that's how it all started.

And now you are doing work sometimes as a go-go dancer? How did you get into that?

One of my friends was working as a hostess at Drag-star, and we'd go a lot, and eventually I got to talking with the organizer, and I got invited to work as a dancer.

You like being in the spotlight?

Yes. I'm really a pretty quiet person, and I always get nervous before I go on. But once I'm out there, I'm really able to let go and enjoy myself. It's really a different feeling from going there as a regular customer.

Would you call yourself a gogo-boy?

Yeah, in a way...

And now, you are doing an interview as a NABAY Coverboy. You said before that you are definately a woman. How do you feel about having the word "-boy" attached to all these titles?

It's totally okay.

I think that, if it were '-girl', it might be a little different. Hard to say...

Have there ever been times when you've been mistaken for a man?

YES! Especially when I go to public toilets. Nobody says anything directly, but people give me strange looks when I go in. Or if I'm already in there, people come in later and do a double-take. They go back outside to make sure they went in the right toilet...

How does that feel?

A little bit frustrating. I don't like being looked at in weird ways.

I don't mind being mistaken for a man. Just when people give me weird looks about it.

Do you think you would prefer to be taken in society as a man or a woman?

Either are really okay, as long as people just accept me for who I am.

In the lesbian world, I'm a butch, and so I guess I live as a man that way. But in society, I'm a woman, and I live as a woman.

And what is your type of woman?

I like girls who can make their own decisions and stick by them, and know how to be strong, but also easy to be with. My ideal would be someone who can be completely straightforward with me.

But, well, the ideal and the actuality are different.

Right now I'm single. Now accepting applications!

You don't really make any efforts to hide your sexuality?

Socially, if it's better to hide it, I do. If I'm out with my father and he says something like 'Do you think you like girls?', I just say something like 'Well, maybe if she's really cute, I could go for it', and just tell a sort of half-truth.

We have a lot of pictures of different hairstyles of yours. What's the story behind that?

Right now it's pretty normal, but I used to have really short hair. While it was growing out, I wanted to do something with it, so I went to a stylist and he always said 'Let's do this!', 'Let's do that!', and I just sort of went along with it.

But I really just wanted something that was different.

Do you want to be different from everyone else?

There's that, but I also didn't want to look like just another suit at my job. I'd been at my company for six years, and the whole time my hairstyle was pretty usual, though sometimes I'd dye it red or blue or such. Then one day I just decided to change the style as well.

What is your taste in fashion?

Right now, I really like punk fashion. I like 'Sexy Dynamite London'. I pretty much wear only their t-shirts!

But I've been thinking of changing my style lately. Maybe to a more simple or earthy style. I really have no idea about fashion. I want one of my stylish friends to show me what to do.

And that was 13. She came in simply, with no accessories, no bags. But what she lacked in fashion, she maintained with presence.

Thank you for your time.

We'd like to hear your inspiring life stories and how you've managed to live and love as a transman.

If you feel inspired to tell your story, just contact us here and we can set up an interview with you, either in person or through email.