…”I ask him if he is ‘out’ and he looks at me, moves his head slightly forward and asks, ‘Pardon?’”

“Are you out of the closet?” I explain.

He shakes his head from side to side a little, leans in and says slowly, “I’m not gay in Japanese, I’m only gay in English.”

The above excerpt introduces Marlen Elliot Harrison’s “Discovering Voices,” an examination of language, sexuality, toriand identity in 21st century Japan. After living and teaching in Western Japan for 4 years, Harrison returned to the United States to complete a doctoral program in applied linguistics. When considering a dissertation topic, he recalled a conversation in which a friend discussed being gay in one language and not in another (above) and wanted to further explore why this might be. By weaving together his own narratives about Japan and sexuality with the autoethnographic narratives of queer Japanese individuals, Harrison showcases the intersection between linguistic repertoire and those critical moments when we conceptualize, reveal, and perform our sexualities. Harrison writes: Continue Reading »


The Closet in the Classroom: Re-positioning queer identity as a ‘non-issue’ in TESOL instruction

Click the link above to read my 2007 manuscript concerning the positioning of queer sexuality in TESOL methods and approaches. Note that my own narrative “The Closet in the Classroom” was originally part of this manuscript.

As part of the new Fundamentals in Multilingual and Intercultural communication (XYHX003) at University of Jyväskylä, Dr. Harrison will present his research on language and sexuality in Japan as an introduction to linguistic relativity. Friday 11th of November, Agora Beeta, 2-4pm

Additionally, the following slides correspond to Marlen’s 2011 Tokyo JALT presentation:

Language and Sexuality in Japan

On November 16th, 2010 I successfully defended my dissertation.

It is said in Japan that “the nail that sticks out gets pounded down.”  Perhaps no one knows this expression better than Japan’s sexual minorities, some of whom perceive their daily lives to be a struggle for recognition and equality.  I must first acknowledge all of the men and women in Japan (and around the world) – including my family, colleagues, and close friends – who have not only encouraged my academic explorations of language and sexuality, but who have also offered support, insight, and participation in such endeavors:  Robert O’Mochain, Tomoko Oda, Atsushi Iida, Asuka Iijima, Koji Kitagawa, Yumiko Nishii, Ellen Head, Barbara Summerhawk, Akira Sasabe, Yukari Hamada, Tomo Uno, Janelle McNeill, Mark Harrison, Rebecca Hanners, Stacey Vye, Dana Beckelman, Hugh Nicoll, Michele Steele, Angela Ayers, Mindee Lieske, Paule Chao, the Peterson and Lewis families, Megan Herzing, Lisya Seloni, James Welker, Folake Abass, the Yukitoshi family, and the men and women of JALT, JACET, AMSA, and SSSS.  A huge thanks to New Victoria Publishers for their generous donation of the books Queer Japan and support of this project.  And most importantly to Anita Moran, Len Harrison and Shelly Sue Green Harrison for always being there when needed.  Boku no tomodachi tou kazoku niwa, arigatou gozaimasu!

I received much support, both financial and academic from my mentors and instructors at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  This project was made possible by a Doctoral Research Grant from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  To Professors Lilia Savova, Ben Rafoth, Michael M.  Williamson, David Hanauer, Gian Pagnucci and Sharon Deckert, I offer my thanks for sharing their passion and expertise throughout my education.  To Professor Gloria Park, I offer thanks for helping this project take shape and for seeing to it that I could continue with the project when progress seemed slow.  To Professor Robert Heasley, I offer my appreciation for the numerous opportunities given me to share this project with students and professional communities and for keeping the dialogue ever moving forward about gender and sexuality.  Finally, a huge thank you to Professor Nancy Hayward for her constant dedication and support while directing this entire project, from its inceptions in our Language and Social Context course to its final days in Jyväskylä, Finland.


Marlen will defend his dissertation in a public forum on Tuesday, November 16th at 3:30 PM, Leonard Hall, Nicholson Library.


This qualitative project examines the relationships between conceptualization, performance and revelation of queer sexualities by bi-lingual Japanese men and women and their experiences with English language and culture in order to highlight the ways in which language may be ideologically bound to specific performances of selves. Continue Reading »

affective stance (see Ochs; Ochs & Schiefflin) – the emotions/emotional world attributed to a language learner’s target language, often more closely related to experiences learning or using the language, such as failing in a learning environment or succeeding in an English-speaking community. Continue Reading »


More soon!

For the Writing Classroom

  • Metacognition and reflection
  • Feedback and error correction
  • The writing community
  • Autoethnography & Phenomenographic writing Continue Reading »

The Conclusion


As exposure to/immersion in an English-speaking environment increases (length of time), conceptualization of sexuality is apt to be influenced by ways of being that might conflict with those of the dominant L1 cultural community. This may reinforce the construction of a sexualized l2 identity, apart from the l1 identity. Revelation and performance may also be affected but are not as sensitive.

Concept – everyone conceptualizes sexuality differently. For some it is a behavior, for others it is a lifestyle, for others yet it is an illness or abomination. Considering the presence of English and English-speaking cultures in Japan, this project is concerned with the ways in which English as linguistic culture/system influences the participants’ understandings of their sexualities.

Performance – we perform our identities in many ways; some choose to construct a publicly open persona while others may choose to never publicize their sexuality. This project is concerned with the ways in which sexuality becomes performed or silenced in different linguistic communities and with members of those communities. Likewise, the ways in which language is used to perform sexualized identities is of equal interest.

Revelation – the coming out experiences (because they are a reality for those constructing public, sexualized, minority identities) can be examined in terms of who tells who what, and in what way. It is a rite of passage, a specific type of performance, for a sexual minority that can become a repetitive discourse, albeit one that has the ability to develop as the individual also develops. To get at the heart of Takashi’s (this project’s sample composite participant) comment about where he constructs homosexuality (In English, not in Japanese), we could look at the ways in which he reveals his constructed sexualized self, specifically regarding who he tells and in what ways.