Sunday, October 7, 2007

Elena Funk ~ Emi Koyama in Feminism

Blog Entry # 2: Emi Koyama in Feminism

In 1975 a future third-wave feminist was born: Emi Koyama. Living twelve years of her life as a boy, and then another twelve as a girl she has since dedicated her work to being an activist, author, and an academic. Issues she covers in particular are intersex, sex workers’ rights, queer domestic violence, genderqueer, and anti-racism. Emi currently lives in Portland, Oregon where she directs Intersex Initiative, an intersex advocacy and activist group she founded in January 2003. Her website,, bears the slogan, “Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.” Her publications include nine articles in both English and Japanese. During Spring 2002 and Summer 2003 she taught a class at Portland State University called “Intersexuality: An Interdisciplinary Exploration.”

Teaching classes is but one of the many ways Emi contributes to today’s feminism. She travels (sometimes) to universities presenting lectures on intersex, domestic violence, disability theory, and the sex workers’ movement. She also volunteers for Danzine, an advocacy organization for and by sex workers. One of her more intense advocacy efforts was to include intersex in V-day, which was accomplished one year before the creation of Intersex Initiative.

Some of Emi’s major accomplishments date back to 1999 when she joined Survivor Project. There she helped put a new spin on intersex presentations the organization made. Later she began work at Intersex Society of North America from 2001 to 2002. Using her experience gained from intern and staff activist positions Emi created Intersex Initiative. This site provides a place of information and support for people with intersex conditions. A year earlier, with the help of friends, she founded, a network of independent artists and activists for social change. These many accomplishments and contributions to feminism have helped women better understand and be comfortable with issues others may not: intersex and sex workers, for example. Each of the online communities she has created and presentations she gives empowers people to re-evaluate their thoughts on controversial issues.

Until this fall I had never heard of Emi Koyama, which is why I chose to learn more about her. I enjoy learning new things and researching Emi Koyama and her work has helped me accomplish that. Of the messages Emi preaches and articles she has written, I feel most moved by a poem she wrote in 2002 called “Refusing to be Safe,” which can be viewed on her website. The poem describes some of what I would guess to be Emi’s life and goes on to talk about what it is like to be a woman, particularly a slut, in the “u.s of fucking a.” I felt her pain as I read this and it moved me towards a better understanding of what some women face in society. With this knowledge I can prevent myself from falling victim to discrimination and interact with all other human beings harmoniously.

Online resources:;;;;

Published articles:

  • 2006. "Higeki no imi wo surikaeru jendaa tataki seiryoku." (Backlash and the distortion of a tragedy)Shukan Kin'youbi. Sept. 22. [in Japanese]
  • 2006. "Disloyal to feminism: Abuse of survivors within the domestic violence shelter system." in Smith A, Richie BE, Sudbury J, eds. The Color of Violence: INCITE! Anthology. Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press.
  • 2006. "'Burenda to yobareta shounen' to bakkurasshu gensetsu no meisou." ("As Nature Made Him and the confused rhetoric of the anti-feminist backlash.") in Ueno C, Miyadai S, et al. Bakkurasshu! Naze jendaa furiiwa tatakaretanoka?. (Backlash!: Gender Equality Under Attack.) Tokyo: Sofusha. [in Japanese]
  • 2006. "Whose feminism is it anyway? The unspoken racism of the trans inclusion debate." in Stryker S, Whittle S, eds. The Transgender Studies Reader. New York: Routledge.
  • 2005. "A new fat-positive feminism: Why the old fat-positive feminism (often) sucks and how to re-invent it." in Heywood LL, ed. The Women's Movement Today: An Encyclopedia of Third-Wave Feminism. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
  • 2004. "Douseikon wo meguru beikoku LGBT komyunitii no poritikusu." ("The politics over same-sex marriages within LGBT communities.") in Akasugi Y, Tsuchiya Y, Tsutsui M, eds. Dousei paatonaa: Douseikon DP-hou wo shiru tameni. (Same-sex partnerships: Understanding same-sex marriage and domestic partnership registry.) [in Japanese]
  • 2004. Feminizumu heno fuchuu: DV sherutaa ni okeru sabaibaa heno gyakutai. (Disloyal to feminism: Abuse of survivors within domestic violence shelter system.) Osaka: Aurora. [Translated to Japanese by Irie K, Wada J.]
  • 2003. "The transfeminist manifesto." in Dicker R, Piepmeier A, eds. Catching A Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century. Boston: Northeastern University Press.
  • 2002. "From social construction to social justice: Transforming how we teach about intersexuality." Co-authored with Weasel L. Women's Studies Quarterly. Fall/Winer.

Published Books:

Introduction to Intersex Activism
Teaching Intersex Issues
A Speaker’s Handbook for Intersex Activists and Allies

IntersexCritiques: Notes on Intersex, Disability and Biomedical Ethics
IntersexCritiques II: Medicine, Media and Intersex Movement

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