If you don't mind me asking- how do the Japanese react to males wearing makeup etc? Is it different from America?
I have been getting this question a lot, so I guess I’ll try to be as comprehensive as possible and give (one gay person’s) insight into being gay in Japan.
BEING GAY/GENDER NON-CONFORMING IN JAPAN (as a foreigner)
Given that Japan is a different country, of course the experience of being gay here is different. But despite the differences, however, Japan is nowhere near being paradise for queer people, foreign and Japanese alike.
I think because of the general homo-positive atmosphere of anime and manga (which, let’s face it, is where most westerns are gathering their information on Japan these days), there’s a bit of a misconception as to how gay people live within Japan. Let me just pop that bubble now: being gay in Japan is no easier here than it is in your own country. Everyone is not bisexual here, as some people in America have tried to convince me. In fact, if anything, open homosexuality is considered rare among Japanese people. Last week, a fellow student (Japanese) informed that, as he sees it, there’s really no gay people in Japan outside of Shinjuku-nichome (the biggest gay nightlife center in the world.) While this isn’t true by a long shot, and doesn’t really make any logical sense (since the gay people have to sleep somewhere right?) I think it gives you a bit of insight into how removed gay people are from everyday life.
If you come to Japan as a gay man looking for dates, be prepared to use apps like Jackd and Grindr. You will rarely meet openly gay Japanese men outside of these apps, though it does happen.
As far as being gender non-conforming (GNC), the good news is that you are safe. In fact, I probably see about one crossdresser everyday in Japan (but keep in mind that I tend to hang around places that attract niche groups/social outcasts). That being said, you’re going to be stared at regardless of whether or not you’re visibly foreign (VF). My GNC Japanese friends have assured me that they too get stared at on public transportation. But if you’re VF and intend to visit Japan, please expect to be stared at in the subway, on the street, when you’re just getting pizza. You’ll get stared at. It happens. You look different.
If you’re gender nonconforming AND VF, you may as well also expect that on occasion, people will laugh directly in your face. There’s an idiom in Japan that says “the nail that sticks out the highest gets hammered in the hardest.” By that logic, If you’re both VF and GNC, be prepared.
That being said, as a foreigner you aren’t SUPPOSED to fit into Japanese society. You’re a guest! You shouldn’t be passing many judgments on their culture anyway, so if they laugh or stare at you, just ignore it. It doesn’t matter if you take off the makeup, color your hair, wear normal shoes, or even become fluent in Japanese. YOU. WILL. NEVER. BE. JAPANESE. The sooner you can accept this, the better off you’ll be. Of course, there are always foreigners who strive for this impossible goal. As a GNC person, you should already know what it feels like to not belong. So the good thing about being in Japan is that you aren’t SUPPOSED to belong. Just be yourself. Either way, people are going to treat you differently. Just accept it, and enjoy your time, make Japanese friends, etc.
As far as making friends with Japanese people as a gay person, it’s hard to give much advice. Japanese people often tell me that they’ve never had a gay friend before. The majority of what these type of people (i.e. Gay-friend virgins) know about homosexuality is the garbage peddled out by Hollywood and Japanese television. In short, do your best to be patient. There is still a pretty big stigma against being openly homosexual, so you should keep in mind that despite that you’re free from this stigma as a foreigner, it does make you a bit more foreign.
Like I said, the good news is that you’re safe. Japanese people stare, laugh, maybe talk about you directly to your face, but will probably never engage in a physical altercation with you. Just do your best to maintain the “you” you know you are, and never forget that for as hard as being gay/queer in Japan is, it’s not much easier anywhere else. Don’t let yourself turn your personal struggle into a “I hate Japan, japanese people are so (X)” idea.
You’re a guest. Nobody asked you to come here, so do your best to learn and listen. Japan is not yaoi anime country. It’s a country full of various people with various opinions.
Enjoy Japan! If you’re an exchange student, chances are the friends you’re making have studied abroad in English speaking countries and have already had gay foreign friends. You’re safe! Do what you want to do, and try not to get hammered in. It would be a shame to let yourself be hammered into a society that you can’t really join anyway. 頑張ってね！
man some kids were laughing at me on the train and i was so angry but then i just talked myself out of it because i know that the only reason people treat you badly is because they’ve been treated badly too so whatever i’m over it i just feel bad for the kids that get bullied so bad
no but yes i do, that’s what i’m here to study. i’m intermediate-beginner level, so i can make basic conversation and i can understand a good deal of everything i hear, but have a harder time with composing responses lol
i’m here for a year, so all i can do is try my hardest to improve! i want to reach japanese proficiency by the end of the year