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LGBT people in Japan are an ‘urban legend’ and that needs to change

Written by gaytourism

Understanding about LGBT people is not widespread in Japan, even though awareness is slowly building.

A media outlet surveyed a range of Japanese people to find out what they think and know about LGBT people.

Although not a perfectly scientific study, the social media survey yielded some interesting results.

With News asked 800 people about LGBT themes. Of those 800, half identified as LGBT or queer and 320 identified as straight. Only 80 of the respondents were not sure of their sexual identity.

Many of the people in the survey who identified as LGBT said there was ‘boom in popularity’ about the community. Access to resources and information was increasing for LGBT people but awareness from the general public has not improved much.

‘Recognition of LGBT has increased slightly, but simply knowing the term changes nothing if society doesn’t come to accept them,’ said one person in Northern Kanto.

‘It feels like the older generation doesn’t accept it. While LGBT people aren’t doing any harm, they are treated as if they are.’

Many in the survey said more people were aware of the LGBT acronym but awareness understanding has not.

One person said they didn’t know any other LGBT people, ‘we’re like an urban legend’.

Media has a role to play

The respondents said there was a troubling display of LGBT people in modern media. LGBT stories were either used as the butt of jokes in comedy shows or as ‘tragedy porn’ to share sad stories.

‘Unless you have met some in person or are interested and read up on them on your own, I think that the only image you’ll have is the comedic one perpetuated by television programs,’ said one man from the Iwate Prefecture.

Another person said: ‘I feel that there’s a strong push to make ‘tragedy porn’ out of the topic.’

‘If the news is going to relay tragic stories, they should equally present success stories as well.’

Afraid to speak out

LGBT people and their allies believed outspoken activists were seen as ‘bothersome or annoying’.

‘Homosexuality (in Japan) is the perfect example of how the more recognition and favorable opinions something receives the more backlash it will also cause,’ a person from Tokyo said.

‘First, people begin to learn about it, and soon after it becomes material for jokes, causing this knowledge to take on a different quality and making these people a target of bullying. I think we will see more of this backlash in the future.’

All you need is love

Homosexuality is not illegal in Japan, but many LGBT people face high levels of bullying and stigmitization as early as their time at school. Many cities around the country have started recognizing same-sex relationships but same-sex marriage is still illegal.

One survey respondent summed up the importance of promoting diversity and embracing the LGBT community.

‘In the end, image is just image. The message that the media should be spreading is that there are various kinds of people and that is what makes the world interesting and beautiful,’ they said.