This post includes descriptions of depression and suicide, which may be disturbing to some readers.
Last week, I released a neck/headwear knitting pattern called “Gender Diversity.” The pattern comes with 3 color schemes of gender queer pride colors – Transgender, Genderfluid and Nonbinary. Each color symbolizes something about gender identification.
Proceeds from the sale of this pattern will benefit My Sistah’s House in Memphis, Tennessee, an emergency shelter for Transgender people.
I am a cisgender male (meaning my gender matches with my birth sex), but probably on the inner side of the genderfluidity spectrum (meaning I’m more effeminate than a typical male). Growing up with two older sisters and being a mama’s boy, I often considered myself as “one of the girls.” I feel very sorry for my father, who had different expectations of me – to be “one of the guys.” He always wanted me to play baseball with him or go jogging outside, which I usually hated and would have rather played the piano at home alone (I’m a self-proclaimed introvert). Even so, I never questioned my assigned gender.
Anyway, enough about me. Today I’d like to write about my friend Kou. Kou and I met in high school, 10th grade to be exact – at age 15. Kou was my first queer friend. Kou introduced me to Shinjuku Nichome (a gay district in Tokyo), which was about an hour away by train from our school in the suburbs. Like many other gays in Japan, Kou religiously listened to Miyuki Nakajima and Yumi Matsutoya‘s music. Kou taught me a lot about gay scenes in Japan. In many ways, Kou was my role model.
But Kou’s mental health started to decline. Kou was depressed most of the time, and suicidal. Kou started researching on how to commit a suicide and would tell me and another friend of ours ways Kou wished to kill themself. The other friend tried to talk them out of it, I couldn’t be that assertive but just listen to them.
Then Kou stopped coming to school altogether. Kou ran away from home, and started working / sharing an apartment with professional drag queens in Tokyo (there are many so-called “new half bars” in Tokyo, where drag queens and/or Male to Female transgender people entertain patrons with dance performance and witty conversations). Even though we didn’t see each other in school anymore, we kept in touch. About once a month, we would meet up, eat lunch, go shopping, or just hang out. Kou said they were in love with me. I was in love with someone else. All I could do was keep Kou company as a friend.
Influenced by their coworkers, Kou started gender reassignment therapy by injecting female hormones. Kou’s skin complexion and body shape were visibly changing. I don’t think Kou ever declared themself as female, and I don’t know how to address Kou’s gender (thus I’m using “They/Them” pronouns). At this point, I was entering college in a different area, and we drifted apart. This was pre-social media or email, and I lost in touch with Kou.
A few years had passed, when I was 20 or so, I ran into Kou in Shinjuku Nichome. We talked on the street for a brief moment. Kou said they had left Tokyo and moved to Nagoya. That was the last time I saw Kou.
Many years later (I would say around age 35?), I ran into the other friend of ours, who tried to talk Kou out of committing a suicide way back when. I asked him if he knew what Kou was up to these days. He just said, “Kou’s dead,” and wouldn’t elaborate further. Knowing him as a pathological liar (it’s a long story…), I’m not sure if I believe him.
I sometimes Google to see if Kou shows up on my search, but nothing ever comes up. Maybe Kou completed the gender reassignment and changed their name. Maybe Kou is really gone. Some day, I would like to find out the truth.