As some of you know, there was a level of concern during the Toronto Comic Arts Forum (TCAF) when a programmer was caught in the Canadian border for having Madoka doujinshi in his laptop. Many people have raised valid concerns over the injustice of this arrest and a couple of others that were caught in the borders because of their “graphic” novels,  but the news has also brought enough paranoia to make some otaku travelers like myself worried when I cross international borders.

While I find the cultural defense logic of Roland Kelts in CNN GO flawed (please, using ukiyo-e as a cultural stand when lolimanga is already a far deviation of ukiyo-e), I find that the article was strong enough to remind me of my mild paranoia during my recent visit to the United States.

I recently traveled to the United States to present in the International Comic Arts Forum where I spoke on the topic of scanlations. And while my topic lies in a safe space, the material I held in my hard drive was something that could probably get me arrested. I’m not speaking of materials exactly similar to those arrested  (although I think I had some of those stuff), but this fujoshi would have some materials in her hard drive that does contain underage boys, boys who are younger than 18 who are getting laid with men over 30 or 40.  I know for a fact that such topics already taps pedophilia but hey… this fujoshi likes her May-December BL affairs. Most of those who have been apprehended for carrying these materials were male so… will I ever get caught in an airport for my BL?

I’m not exactly sure if I’m lucky or if dressing up quite decently for my trip gave the immigration and custom officers the impression that I was a decent person and there’s no way I would hold such questionable material in my person. But the fact of the matter is I did, and in fact I even brought home some more of that questionable material (Book Off New York had some treasures!).  And these were hard copies!

I haven’t done this only in the US but pretty much in every country in Asia where I know there are BL and doujins being sold. I’ve brought home countless of questionable material, and my Denden town swag was strong enough to make any guy weep on how naughty my tastes are but somehow I’ve been lucky enough to be out of their moral radar. Don’t even ask me of what I’m capable of lugging out of Singapore. They have a treasure trove of Gintama BL Anthologies in a quiet nook in Kinokuniya.

As a fujoshi, I have not been caught or questioned for the questionable materials that I’ve bought. I wondered if I didn’t have the face of a pervert or these immigration folks just didn’t sense my strong fujoshi aura. Maybe they haven’t added the “fujoshi” profile in people they have to watch out for. Maybe it pays to brush my hair and look clean when travelling. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m a girl and that already sets a double standard that I’m not just capable of holding such material. They didn’t sense that I like reading manga about young boys taming old men nor did they think that I was even capable of enjoying old men torturing young boys until they weep. Will I ever be apprehended for carrying a Naono Bohra or Chitose Piyoko title? If I brought a Haruka Minami or CJ Michalski title, will I face deportation and be kicked out of any country? If I brought home Kaze to Ki no Uta, will they interrogate me for enjoying Auguste’s torture of Gilbert? Will I ever be arrested in my own country for ordering my favorite brand of BL online?

I’m not sure for other countries. But I’d definitely get arrested in Canada.

In 2006, Elizabeth McClung was searched thoroughly in Canadian borders because she simply carried manga which has a “high potential” of displaying pornographic material. When I found out about this, I had a good laugh because I remember that a lot of the translated ero manga that I read when I was younger, depicting pornography of all examples, were published in Canada.  Seeing Elizabeth’s story made me mildly scared, and the idea that my carry-on bag had a Kumota Haruko title made me wonder if her mildly childish and whimsical BL style would make the Chinese immigration in Shanghai seize all of my belongings because it’s a threat to Communist China.

It’s scary isn’t it? But it’s a reality.  I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t randomly searched and that other countries seem to not care, but I still worry about that day when I do get randomly searched and I will have to explain to some uptight moralistic customs official why I am not a sexual predator and why I happen to hold this material. I will definitely have a hard time convincing them of the subtleties of the material.

To be honest, I feel torn and still quite paranoid on the possibility of my arrest for lugging BL across borders. Right now, I think that being a woman makes things a whole lot safer for me but if these people were dumber, there’s a great chance I could get arrested as well.

Can I do something about it? The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) has some handy tips for you. They can get wordy, so these are the best of that lot, just in case something does happen. I will add in some tips from my own travelling experiences of lugging BL across borders.

  • Bring as little information with you as you travel
    • While I think this is IMPOSSIBLE for most travellers, it does pay to clean your HD of any questionable material before your trip. For airport travelers, there’s also a greater chance that your carry-ons will be inspected at almost every corner, especially in the Philippines and in the US. Just check-in your laptop and any manga that you have.  Just make sure you’ve secured them so they don’t get damaged while in transit. If you want reading material, find some other thing to read other than your BL.
  • Mail your material rather than lugging it around
    • An awesome tip especially when you went on an all out BL shopping spree in Japan. There are door to door delivery services that you can hire to ship your stuff straight to your doorstep. They’re not exactly like Fed Ex as these guys are willing to mail you things by the box. These boxes are hardly inspected in customs and it would save you tons instead of having an overweight luggage. Japan post is a good start. The Philippines has their own door to door service and it varies from country to country.
  • Choose your titles wisely
    • You can’t bring home everything. So make smart choices on the titles you wish to bring home and see if these are titles that you won’t have any trouble with. If what you love gets really risky, mail it. If that is a hassle for you, then put it at the bottom of your check-in luggage and forget about wanting to read it so bad until you get home in your bedroom. Checked-in luggage at airports is hardly inspected open unless you really have a weirdly shaped material that looks exactly like a gun or there’s liquid oozing out of your luggage or if the dogs sniff something funny in it.
  • Dress smart
    • This may be difficult for long travels, but it pays to look like as if you’re a decent person. Smile and answer them appropriately and give them no reason to stop you just by your looks. I think it really helps.
  • Travel light
    • One check-in luggage and one-carry on. Don’t make it look like you’re bringing home the entire store of Animate.
As I have been fortunate not to be randomly checked in airports, I realized that the best defense is be conscientious of the material that you’re buying and the people who may possibly inspect it. If you think of the possibility that they may search you, then, by all means, take every measure to to hide anything that you know will be difficult to explain to people. Not everyone is culturally aware of the subtleties of fiction in Japan. We can’t make them change their opinion about Japanese culture in a ten minute or three hour interrogation. Nor should we even impose these cultural differences to them. You just have to admit the fact that not everyone is as open to various cultures as you. You have to understand and respect these differences and play along by their rules to avoid any unnecessary hassle.
I hope and pray that someday the entire world would just have a clearer understanding of various forms of culture and there would be no need to feel worried or scared over something as trivial as this.  Until then, I will be on my toes and be watchful of what I buy and make sure those customs officials don’t ever sniff my fujoshi aura.