Japan: Coming-Out Letters

COL coverThe Japanese LGBT community has come a long way to claim its position in society today. However, aside from those flamboyant celebrities on TV who satisfy viewers’ appetite for entertainment, the voices of sexual minorities are still rarely heard or amplified – perhaps more so in the case of those who support and share their life with them.

“Coming-Out Letters” is a compilation of letters exchanged between lesbian and gay children and their parents, students and their teachers, edited by two prominent Japanese LGBT activists, RYOJI and Sunagawa Hideki. What distinguishes this new publication from much of the LGBT literature previously published is that it exposes not only the experiences of the children/students but also how parents and teachers faced, handled and overcame their children/students coming out to them. Since its publishing in December, the book has inspired many bloggers to share their responses to the book as well as their personal thoughts and experiences.

Fushimi Noriaki, a gay writer, sums up his impression of the book:


Coming out is (or should be) spoken of not as something the minority does in an arbitrary way, but as communication with the receiving side. In this sense, this book is the first to stereoscopically capture people's coming-out [experience]. I think it wonderfully exposes the “present” of Japanese gays and lesbians who, even while confronted by discrimination, have a space of possibilities opening before them.

Other bloggers shared their personal views and thoughts on the topic. Blogger Yu considers what the act of coming out means to him:


Anyway, in my case, I haven't been able to come out to my family. I cannot deny the fact that coming from a Christian home is one of the reasons. However, more so, I think it's because I grew up with my parents wishing “we want to read books to grandchildren” and both my grandmothers wishing “want to see my grandson's wedding, want to see great-grandchildren”.
And above all, it's because I feel from the bottom of my heart that I grew up with so much love. I have lived my life until now always thinking that I have to tell them, I have to tell them some day.[…]



Who do I like, who do I wish to live with.
Whom your child likes and who he/she wishes to live their life with.
The truth is, it's just about that. But this is something important that comes down to the core of your and your child's life.
That's why I want to say this. That's why I cannot say this. That's why I regret after telling, and fear after hearing.
That, I think, is what coming out is about.

But still, coming out is not just about bitterness and heartaches.


This is the way I am but I want to live my life with you for years to come.
Whatever kind of person you are, I want to live my life with you for years to come.
To think about and recognize each other, and to live with new relationships and old relationships.
To chisel these things deeply in my heart, I believe, is what coming out is about.

Another blogger, Akaboshi, shares his thoughts as well:


When a homosexual person like me is hesitant about coming out with their close family, I think the thinking is as much that “I don't want to hurt them” as it is that “I don't want to get hurt”. This is a result of my own experience during my adolescent years continuously escaping from my true self, a self that can love only a person of the same sex. Why do I have to impose a hardship that was already difficult enough for me onto my old parents. I cannot deny the fact that I have these kinds of feelings. The source [of the problem], though, is the prevalence of homophobia in society.


The closer you are to the person you want to come out to, the greater the danger there is to the relationship. So unless you are sure about how to handle the situation in case you fail, I think it is natural to be hesitant. You can take up the argument of the strong and criticize my saying this as being “coward” or as “wimpy”, but I know from my own experience that there are not only strong people in this world. I think there are things that you can't see when you become strong. Being born as gay itself is tough enough, why do I have to take on the pressure of having to go through the experience of “coming out” — this is what I think in my heart sometimes.

On the other hand, yejin compares her experience of being and “coming out” as zainichi:



ゲイやレズビアンの人は、強固な一般的社会通念という壁にはばまれ、うちのめされることが多いのではないか? 傷ついて誰にも明かせず自分を肯定できず生きているのではないか? そう思うと胸がしめつけられます。

In terms of the struggles of minorities, I see a lot of similar challenges and problems relating to Zainichi, so I felt a lot of sympathy.

However, their problem perhaps is the fact that they cannot easily come out to their parents, by whom they want to be understood and accepted the most, and that even if they do come out they are not accepted.

Doesn't it seem that gays and lesbians often get thwarted by an impregnable wall of social notions? Doesn't it seem that they live their life unable to tell anyone, unable to be positive about themselves? When I think about these things, it breaks my heart.




More than anything, to have to continuously hide your true self from your parents, who gave birth to you, and from your close friends — this is like living with a huge burden on your heart.

However, I don't think Japan is a society that is friendly to sexual minorities. When trying to come out, even to close friends, I bet they have to prepare for every possible reaction.

In my case as well, when I tell my friends “I'm a zainichi”, I need a little bit of courage and have to prepare for different reactions. It's not really that serious or anything, but certainly I would like to think about how I should be in response to each possible question.

Special & warm thanks to Yu, blogger at Yuyu jiteki(悠々自的。), who kindly advised me on the topic and helped me put together the blog entries for this post.

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