I have had a couple of very profound weekends in these recent times. One of which was attending my first pride parade in Japan, and I’ll write more about that in another post, the other is what I am going to share with my dear readers today.
On Halloween weekend I had a party for a few coworkers from one of my schools and I came out to them. I didn’t plan on coming out and honestly it had never crossed my mind to do so. However,the hand of fate lead one thing to another and I was confronted with the “Do you have a boyfriend” question. I have gotten very good at rebuffing students who constantly ask this question, as well as other coworkers at work. However to my surprise these gals were not going to give up without something. After I insisted on not having a boyfriend they were convinced I had a crush on someone. I tried to deflect the question by saying I of course think some people are cute here and there but I don’t want to date them. Of course then they wanted to know who I thought was cute at our school. My coworkers were so stubborn and eager to learn about my personal life that I figured you know what why not? I am completely out in the states where I’m from. I have had a variety of responses to my coming out throughout my life. I think I can probably handle it even if things go a little sour. So I told them I had a secret and that for the most part this is ok in America but I didn’t know if it was ok in Japan. My coworkers got quiet and serious and basically all said they wanted to know and were prepared. One of the teachers seemed to catch on and said something like “Japan is pretty open these days”. So then I told them I like girls. Now despite all my experience coming out, I have never had such an anticlimactic reaction ever. If anything that was the one outcome I was not prepared for. They were so relaxed about it. I was amazed. Also the next time I saw them at work I was not greeted with awkward strained smiles but genuine smiles from people that could be my friends in the future.
Maybe I was lucky. No doubt I have been surprised by the bigotry of people who have lived in democratic areas or big cities and the kindness/ open-mindedness people from the countryside or more conservative areas. You really can’t predict how people will react wherever you are and sometimes even how long you have known them. If you are reading this and are thinking of coming out in Japan my advice would be this…
Don’t say you are gay or lesbian, just explain that you as a woman like other women or like men as a man respectively. If you are bisexual just say you like both. I wouldn’t label yourself just because it comes off as more intense news.
Preampt your coming out with a bit of a warning or even dialogue about different forms of sexuality or even culture difference.
Test the waters by maybe asking them what they think of various famous people being gay or even drama characters.
The thing about Japanese culture is that when you are foreign you are given a lot of slack. If I were Japanese coming out to my coworkers I might have gotten a much different reaction. Also if someone did have a problem with you they won’t ever say it to your face. You will find out either because they told someone else their true feelings who then told you, or they will simply always be busy when you try to make plans with them. If someone is against your queerness for whatever reason, be the better person and try not to let it get to you.