Being a part of the LGBTQ community in any country gives you a little extra nervousness whenever making new friends. Japan is no different, and it also gives a little extra element of nervousness due to the fact that you don’t really know how the people in your age group will react when you tell them this little piece of information. So far, the Japanese friends that I’ve made and told this to react with shock and surprise. To be honest, they have had a very different reaction than the people who I’ve told back in America. I still find it a little awkward when telling someone here because I’m used to my sexuality not being a big of a deal to anyone. Being Pansexual is not really a concept that people even in America can fully understand or distinguish between Bisexuality. Trying to communicate this kind of difference in Japanese usually doesn’t work too well, so I’ve had to mostly say that I’m bisexual to my friends if/when I tell them. It’s kind of awkward having to change my sexuality label just so I can get people to understand that I’m not straight, but the language barrier definitely rears its ugly head in this situation. Yet, even after the initial shock, none of my friends or anyone else that I’ve told about my sexuality have ever been rude or demeaning in any way. In fact, they seem extremely curious and interested in learning more about my life and views on relationships and my background. It makes me actually really happy in a way that I can’t describe well, but it gives me a lot of hope for the LGBTQ community slowly becoming more accepted in the younger generations here.
You honestly don’t really hear anything about the LGBTQ community here in everyday conversation or on the news. There’s a small part of one of the areas on Shinjuku called Ni-Chome that is known to be the gay district full of bars, clubs and also some prostitution, and it’s seen as being pretty scandalous to go to that area unless you’re with a tour group. So, I haven’t really gotten a chance to try to integrate into the community here and I honestly don’t know if I ever will.
When I first lived abroad about three years ago, I was very shy about my sexuality and was definitely still closeted, but living in a different country gives you a lot of insight into the fact that “norms” with anything (especially when it comes to notions on sexuality) isn’t really something that’s cross culturally applicable. My time abroad has given me so much confidence in knowing who I am as a person, and in turn given me so much pride for the community that I represent. And, even being in a situation now where I may feel uncomfortable at times about how people react to a part of me, it’s actually done nothing except made me more proud of the fact that I call myself something other than heterosexual and it’s made me realize that the United States maybe isn’t as bad overall as some make it seem when it comes to accepting people in the LGBTQ community.