In December 2013, a 17-year-old student “came out” and admitted that he was gay in a speech he made for the Hokkaido Prefectural English Speech Contest, a pretty unusual and courageous thing to do in Japan – given the cultural stigma that Japanese society still give to the LGBT community here. The Japanese student’s full identity is still unknown at this point, and he is only identified by the YouTube video that recorded his rousing speech.
“Why do gay people have to face discrimination? Is it because they are not heterosexual? Is it a sin to love somebody of the same gender? The law cannot control love or people’s feelings,” the student rhetorically inquired. Japan is infamous for the tremendous pressure the society exerts on its people in trying to be homogenous – that nobody is different and no one sticks out like a sore thumb. But the student’s speech then turned personal, admitting that he himself was a homosexual forced to hide his true identity and a target for discrimination. “I have faced discrimination too. I am gay,” he admitted. “I realized this when I was a junior high-school student, although I never told anybody, somehow my classmates guessed that I was. They rejected me and treated me like I was not a human being,” he added. He also described how one of his female classmates said to him, “I can’t believe someone like you exists.”
The video is starting to get a lot of attention, as well as the transcript for his speech. A video on a similar subject was made in 2012 by Mikine Dezaki, an English teacher in Japan. Dezaki, an American, interviewed a Japanese friend about being gay in the country. The fact that the American has had to keep his friend’s identity anonymous is evidence of the societal pressure in Japan. The interviewee explained that there are actually a lot of gay Japanese men, but most of them end up marrying straight women, keeping their sexual preferences a secret because of the discrimination that they will be sure to experience if they “come out”.
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