Did you know there’s an annual penis festival in Japan?

Festival of the Steel Phallus japan tokyo floats

Every year thousands of people descend on Kawasaki in Japan to celebrate one thing: the penis. Welcome to Kanamara Matsuri, the Festival of the Steel Phallus.

The festival dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868), a day praising penises and fertility with a focus on spirituality. However, in recent years the celebrations have been used to educate people about safe-sex, while also raising funds for HIV charities.

Festival of the steel phallus kanamara matsuri tokyo japan

That’s a pretty big phallus | Photo: Guilhem Vellut, Flickr (CC.2)

What happens at the penis festival?

Celebrated on the first Sunday in April, during Cherry Blossom season, people carry portable penis shrines through the streets of Kawasaki, just outside of Tokyo. Mikoshi, as they are called in Japan, start and end their journey at Kanayama Shrine. There are three main floating shrines: two traditional penises (Kanamara Fune Mikoshi and the Big Kanamara Mikoshi), as well as the Elizabeth Float.

Festival of the Steel Phallus japan tokyo

It’s by far the most popular float | Photo: Takanori, Flickr, CC.2

The latter is a giant pink penis shrine, donated by Tokyo drag bar Elizabeth Kaikan. Genderfluid, queer men, and trans women dress in traditional bright pink kimonos, wigs and make-up as they carry the float down the street.

This float being the star of the show is part of the reason why this festival resonates so resolutely with the LGBTI community. The expectation to have a traditional family is still strong in Japan and LGBTI people still face discrimination. At Kanamara Matsuri, everyone – straight and queer alike – are able to cut loose and embrace the sex part of their sexuality.

It’s not all parades of giant penis shrines, though. An annual radish-carving contest is held (no prizes for what they’re carving), as well as a costume competition. Proceeds from these events go to HIV charities.

The origins of the festival

The festival has its roots in both mythology and history.

Festival of the Steel Phallus Japan tokyo

Praise to the blacksmiths | Photo: Guilhem Vellut, Flickr, CC.2

The myth behind the day centers around a young woman with a demon admirer. The demon becomes jealous when she marries a human man, and so plants itself in her vagina. Unfortunately for the young man, their wedding night is ruined. When the husband tries to have sex with her, the demon bites his penis off.

The woman remarries a second man, hoping it’s just an unhappy coincidence. But when they go to bed together, the demon takes another bite, and another penis falls victim to the demon’s teeth.

Saddened they couldn’t have children, the woman visited a blacksmith and asked him to create something so strong the demon couldn’t bite through it. He forged an steel phallus. The woman inserted the steel phallus into her vagina, destroying the iron-weak demon – and restoring her fertility. The penis shrines are to commemorate the spirit of the blacksmith.

Japanese penis festival tokyo

The photo speaks for itself… | Photo: Guilhem Vellut, Flickr, CC.2

Radish carving at the japanese penis festival

Radish carving, not for the faint of heart | Photo: Masayuki (Yuki) Kawagishi, Flickr, CC.2

Women with teeth in their vaginas is often used as a metaphor for syphilis. The myth was likely to be a cautionary tale, also.

There’s another myth connected to the shrine and the festival. Japanese legend tells the tale of the Shinto goddess Izanami, who gave birth to a fire god. The fire child ruined her body. So, she turned to two gods of mining and blacksmiths, Kanayamahiko and Kanayamahime, who healed her after the childbirth.

Kanayama Shrine then became popular with sex workers from the local tea houses. They prayed to the gods of mining and blacksmiths for protection against sexually transmitted infections. It’s these prayers that form the basis of the original festival.

What to buy at the penis festival

Of course there’s traditional food and sake, but the most popular things to eat are penis and vulva shaped candy. They also have limited edition shrine seals, the Kanayama Shrine Goshuincho.

Kanamara Matsuri japanese penis festival

An assortment of goods on sale | Photo: Karl Baron, Flickr, CC.2

On these pamphlets, artists fuse traditional features of religion and mythology with the male genitalia. Inside, patterns form into the shape of penises and vaginas. It might be enough to make monks at other temples blush.

Penis hats are incredibly popular too. Remember though, the festival is incredibly popular – with up to 50,000 people attending each year. All this penis memorabilia will sell out quickly, so get there quickly if you don’t want to miss out.

From carving dicks out of radishes to selling merchandise based around sexual organs, Kanamara Matsuri has its tongue firmly in its cheek. If you’re in Tokyo for cherry blossom season, why not go along for a ride.

See also: 

21 hot photos of LGBTI people getting steamy at The Winter Party Festival

These photos show the first indigenous queer festival in Taiwan was magical

You can now spend 24/7 in a musical theatre nirvana on this festival cruise

Author: Tom Capon

The post Did you know there’s an annual penis festival in Japan? appeared first on Gay Star News.

The 11 bisexual people of color they didn’t teach you about in history class

Do bisexual icons just wear flowers in their hair is that their job | Photo: Wikimedia

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker: the first African-American to star in a major motion picture.

She was a dancer, an entertainer, and French resistance agent. While her career mostly took place in France, a costume consisting of only a girdle of artificial bananas became one of the most iconic images of the Jazz Age and 1920s.

Baker also refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States. She was an unofficial leader in the Civil Rights Movement.

She married a man at 13, and divorced a short time later. Baker also married three other times. But despite her marriages, she also had several relationships with women.

Jean Michel Basquiat 

Jean Michel Basquiat is one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

He dated Madonna, then unknown, back in 1982. And from there, he had relationships with many people in the art world.

According to Jennifer Clement, author of Widow Basquiat, the artist was ‘attracted to people for all different reasons’.

She said: ‘They could be boys, girls, thin, fat, pretty, ugly. It was, I think, driven by intelligence.’

He died of a heroin overdose at just 27 years old.

George Washington Carver

A restored photo of George Washington Carver from 1910 | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Born a slave, George Washington Carver became one of the greatest scientists in history.

He was even nicknamed the ‘Black Leonardo’ by TIME magazine in 1941.

While doing this, he discovered 285 uses of the peanut (unfortunately not peanut butter, as the joke about him goes). He also developed 118 products derived from sweet potato, including shoe polish.

Carver never married. It was long rumored he had been castrated due to his high voice pitch.

At 40, he courted an elementary school teacher named Sarah Hunt. And at 70, he established a close relationship with a young black scientist Austin Curtis. When Carver died in 1943, he bequeathed his royalties to Curtis.

Leslie Cheung

Leslie Cheung, one of the ‘founding fathers of Cantopop’, was an A-lister.

A teen heartthrob and pop icon of Hong Kong in the 70s and 80s, he won numerous music awards.

He announced he was in a relationship with a man during a concert in 1997.

And in 2001, he clarified his sexuality.

‘It’s more appropriate to say I’m bisexual. I’ve had girlfriends. When I was 22 or so, I asked my girlfriend Teresa Mo  to marry me,’ he told Time magazine.

He added later: My mind is bisexual. It’s easy for me to love a woman. It’s also easy for me to love a man too.’

But his story has a sad end. He died by suicide in 2003 after suffering from depression.

Brenda Fassie

If Brenda Fassie was born in America, it’s likely she would’ve been a superstar.

But she was born outside Cape Town in the 1960s. Her career began when she recorded her band’s hit song Weekend Special.

Known as ‘Madonna of the Townships’ and the Queen of African Pop, Brenda had hit after hit.

But she didn’t have great taste in men or women. Her girlfriend, in 1995, died of an overdose as Brenda laid next to her in a drug-induced haze.

The men she dated tried to con her out of her money. She died in 2004, a voice for disenfranchised blacks during apartheid, a legend.

Mahmud of Ghazni

Mahmud of Ghazni was the first ruler to hold the title Sultan. He ruled the Ghaznavid dynasty from 998 to 1030.

His empire, which extended from northwestern Iran to the Punjab in India, the capital Ghazni became the epicentre of the Islamic world.

He appointed his male lover Malik Ayaz, a slave from Georgia, as the Sultan of Lahore.

When Mahmud asked Malik who ruled the land, and Malik said it was him, Mahmud corrected him saying, ‘I am a slave to a slave.

Kenny Greene

For many R&B fans, Kenny Greene was a voice of a generation. He won Songwriter of the Year for his work with Mary J Blige, Will Smith and 98 Degrees.

He was also the lead singer of the group Intro.

In 2001, he came out as bisexual. He died at the age of 32 due to complications of AIDS.

Emile Griffith

Emile Griffith was one of the most famous boxers of his generation, becoming a world champion in three weight classes.

The contest he is best known for is in 1962. At the weigh-in with his opponent Benny Paret, Paret called Griffith homophobic slurs and touched his buttocks.

Griffith won the bout by knockout; Paret never recovered consciousness and died in 10 days later.

He was quoted in Sports Illustrated: ‘I like men and women both. But I don’t like that word: homosexual, gay or faggot.’

He added: ‘I don’t know what I am. I love men and women the same, but if you ask me which is better … I like women.’

Billie Holliday

Billie Holiday was one of the most iconic jazz singers of the 1930s.

Starting off in Harlem, her voice became recognized around the world.

She suffered many personal tragedies, a drug addiction. It is thought, in prison, she had many same-sex relationships with women.

But in her career, she was openly bisexual. She’s even rumored to have dated actresses, including Tallulah Bankhead.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo is perhaps one of the most iconic painters ever. Born in Mexico City, she survived polio as a child and an accident that confined her to her bed for over a year.

She survived mentally by drawing on her full body cast. Frida is best known for her 55 self portraits.

The early 20th century bisexual artist had affairs with both men and women, including her husband’s mistresses. She was linked with American painter Georgia O’Keeffe and movie stars Dolores Del Rio and Paulette Goddard.

Her painting Two Nudes in a Forest is a tribute to her attraction and love of women.

Malcolm X 

Malcolm X is a liberation hero. Before his assassination in 1965, there were rumors he had same-sex relationships while in a marriage with a woman.

The political leader’s sexuality remained unknown, until an acclaimed biography was published.

Bruce Perry wrote Malcolm – The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America. He interviewed many people close to him during adult life. Several of them state he truly was bisexual.

See also:

LGBTI people of color outnumber white LGBTI people on broadcast TV for the first time

UK Black Pride 2018: 14 photos of people of color living their best lives

Stonewall quits Pride in London over race but people of color disagree

Author: Joe Morgan

The post The 11 bisexual people of color they didn’t teach you about in history class appeared first on Gay Star News.

How teaching LGBTI history could stop bullying in school

Harvey Milk at gay pride in San Jose, 1978

When I was student going through elementary school, middle school, and high school, there was no discussion of LGBTI people or events in my history classes. For many other LGBTI adults, their experience at school was the same.

A few states across the United States are starting to address this by passing legislation for LGBTI-inclusive education.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center, however, is going one step further.

They released a set of free, downloadable lesson plans for teachers across the country to start incorporating into their classrooms.

GSN spoke to Terra Russell Slavin, Deputy Director of Policy & Community Building at the Center, and Hala Dillsi, a queer person of color and teacher at Grover Cleveland High School, about this project and its promising power.

Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Rivera is another icon | Photo: Wikimedia

Our history is diverse and important

There are 10 lesson plans total, each with a different theme and subject. They are as follows:

  • January – Black Cat Tavern Riots
  • March – Bayard Rustin
  • April – AIDS Crisis
  • May – Harvey Milk
  • June – Civil Rights
  • July – FAIR Act
  • September – Female Impersonation During WWI
  • October – Coming Out in the 1950s-1970s
  • October – Bilitis and The Ladder
  • November – Audre Lorde

Slavin told GSN these lesson plans and their subjects came from the Center’s own calendar. She added that intersectionality was a component of choosing the subjects.

For Dillsi, it was personal.

‘That’s especially important to me as a queer person of color,’ she said. ‘I wanted to develop something that would help all students. Being LGBTQ is only one part of people’s identity.’

The project has been in the works for some time. According to Slavin, it has two main goals: helping establishing LGBTI-inclusive schools and adhering to California’s FAIR Education Act, which mandates LGBTI-inclusive education.

Dillsi joined the project through the UCLA History Project. She knew it was important and saw it as a good way to use her research and skills. Plus, she added, she’s a bit of a nerd.

People involved with the project, including Dillsi, went to ONE Archives, the largest archive of LGBTI resources in the US, and pulled primary sources to create the curriculum.

A Gay-Straight Alliance school bus at Seattle Pride

A Gay-Straight Alliance school bus at Seattle Pride | Photo: Flickr/jglsongs

How this can help schools become safer

Both Slavin and Dillsi stressed how teaching LGBTI history can help better school environments.

‘Research shows LGBTQ students, if they have adult allies, if they see visible representation, it makes a significant difference in their lives,’ Slavin explained.

Research also shows, however, that schools in the US are not always safe places for LGBTI students.

Slavin thinks these lesson plans can address that: ‘If a classroom is studying the subject in a meaningful way, it may address bullying. It sets up a foundation of understanding that’s not okay.’

Dillsi agreed: ‘It helps everyone – it’s all about humanizing people, and you begin to see people as human beings and understand their experiences. It changes their environment.’

A school classroom

Addressing the needs of LGBTI youth is important | Photo: Unsplash/NeONBRAND

A tool for teachers

In 2017, Calif0rnia became the first state to approve 10 new LGBTI-inclusive textbooks.

Unfortunately, as Dillsi told GSN, not every school can afford new textbooks. This means those lacking funds continued to use old textbooks — without any LGBTI history included.

‘That’s a gap these lesson plans can fill,’ she explained. ‘This can be empowering for teachers. They can shape these lesson plans to their own students and communities. And I hope one day we can create curriculums that cross subjects.’

As for teaching this history, she said it can start as simply as any other lesson.

‘Starting out it may be as simple as defining terms – transgender, two-spirit, lesbian, pansexual. It helps get the students started out on the same page with proper vocabulary and understanding.’

A group of six pupils post in front of a pride flag, holding a display of LGBTI history icons, both past and present

Crieff High’s Equality Group pose with their LGBTI History Month display | Picture: Twitter @HighCrieff

Are students responding?

It’s early yet, but Dillsi has started using these lesson plans in her own classroom. One thing she’s noticed is that all her students ‘perk up’ when she begins discussing the subject.

‘I think it’s because there’s not a lot of spaces that discuss this history. There’s a curiosity there and I’ve noticed that students care about learning how LGBTI people are treated,’ she said.

‘They’ve never had the opportunity to learn about someone like Sylvia Rivera. And to see someone who is working class, who is a person of color, who faced their struggles, it’s relatable. And to see someone with strength and resilience is powerful.’

As for herself, Dillsi said the whole project has been humbling.

‘I get a little overwhelmed because I realize how poignant this is.’

See also

11-year-old being escorted to lessons after homophobic attack and threats

South Dakota passes anti-trans bill banning gender discussion in schools

School kids compete in rainbow bake-off celebrating LGBTI history month

Author: Anya Crittenton

The post How teaching LGBTI history could stop bullying in school appeared first on Gay Star News.