Ordinary homophobia in Japanese everyday society and culture
Erick Laurent (Gifu Keizai University)
Paper short abstract:
The very existence of homophobia in Japan indeed may need, as a prerequisite, a real consciousness, by the "perpetrators", of what homosexuality means. However in Japan, especially in rural areas (where I conducted fieldwork and interviews among gays), this is not often the case.
Paper long abstract:
The very existence of homophobia in Japan may need, as a prerequisite, a real consciousness, by the "perpetrators", of what homosexuality means. However in Japan, especially in rural areas (where I conducted fieldwork and interviews among gays), this is not often the case. First, the image mass-media usually give of homosexuals and homosexuality (in wide shows, dramas, or even more serious debates) strongly reinforces stereotypes (over-feminized gestures, vestures, ways of speaking, etc.), paralleling a lack of thorough information and education. Thus, many Japanese make a clear-cut difference between the situations upon "the screen", and in real life, to the point that many of them can hardly imagine the presence of lgbtq around them, in their everyday life. Second, the "victims" show a rather strong tendency not be feel "victimized", by what could be interpreted in a Western perspective as insults or discrimination (after all, is there homophobia if the "victim" does not "feel" it?). Third, sexual "identities" are not given once and for all in Japan. There exists a subtle fluidity in sexual matters that may lead not to interpret sex between men as "homosexual acts", needless to say an "(homo)sexual identity". Fixed sexual identities, often with a (moral, social) judgment attached to them, were mainly introduced with Western medical discourses from the Meiji period. Fourth, owing to several sociological (like the importance of marriage), psychological and cultural factors, there is a very small percentage of lgbtq who come out of the closet. And most of the gays I interviewed are still eager to conform to social and cultural (heterocentered) expectancies, often meaning having a "double life". And the absence of social visibility lessens the possibility of homophobic acts. Nevertheless, if not overtly expressed, a "latent" homophobia does exist in Japan. This can take the form of internalized homophobia for not conforming to social expectancies or not playing the expected familial role (that may lead young gays to hate themselves, sometimes driving them to commit suicide), or hidden homophobic acts (being sacked from one's job, or excluded from social events or groups, always according to other, false reasons).
Homophobia in contemporary Japan