LGBTQ in Japan: Avoiding the Closet

Source: Gaijin Pot
LGBTQ in Japan: Avoiding the Closet

Japanese oshire (closets) are large, spacious and — like their Western counterparts — share more than their fair share of unmentionables. But if films like Ju-on: The Grudge have taught us anything, it is that closets are dangerous. To avoid the horror of winding up back in the closet after coming to Japan, here are some things to consider.

Don’t mistake silence for intolerance

Japanese people tend to value the separation of their private and public lives. As a consequence, many Japanese LGBT folks feel it is “oversharing” to talk about their experiences with acquaintances, colleagues and even friends. This leads many to believe that they do not know a queer person, despite hearing about them on TV and knowing there are movements for LGBT rights elsewhere.

Keeping this in mind, there are few sources of hate towards LGBT people in Japanese society. Homosexuality can be found in literature here dating back hundreds of years and was formally legalized in 1880. Moreover, Buddhism and Shintoism, Japan’s primary religions, do not explicitly condemn being lesbian or gay. Japanese people may choose to remain silent about their private lives, but that doesn’t mean that you have to.

Weave a safety net and set boundaries

There will probably be moments during your time abroad when the closet door swings open like that scene from Poltergeist, and all you can do is hang on to your bed frame for dear life as a demonic tentacle reaches out to suck you in. This tentacle can take the form of a comment like “Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?” (if you are a gay man/lesbian) or misgendering (if you are trans).

Remember what I said about different standards? This means some Japanese people and acquaintances may also pry further into your personal life more than you feel is fair. You will probably be …continue reading