(From Asahi Shimbun)
By Yoko Tanaka
Hiroko Masuhara wept when she came out as a lesbian, worried about how her friends would react to her long-held secret. They sobbed with her and offered words of encouragement and understanding.
“At that time, I finally felt a sign that it may not be necessary to change myself,” Masuhara said.
Masuhara, now a 37-year-old company owner in Tokyo, provided details of her struggles to a project called “Out in Japan” run by Good Aging Yells, a nonprofit organization that has been engaged in activities to support sexual minorities.
In March and August this year, the NPO held photo sessions for sexual minorities who were willing to show their pictures on the project’s website (http://outinjapan.com). The goal of the project is to make it easier for others to come out and to create a society more accepting of sexual minorities.
An online survey conducted by major advertising agency Dentsu Inc. in April showed that 7.6 percent of people between 20 and 59 years old in Japan are sexual minorities.
That means one in every 13 Japanese in that age bracket is a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.
A total of 229 people took part in the photo sessions. They also provided thoughts and details about when they came out.
Masuhara said she decided to come out after thinking, “I don’t want to tell lies to my important friends anymore.”
She said she thought she was a deviant because she was sexually attracted to women, not men, and was intent on concealing her preference. But she later agonized over her growing feelings of guilt that she was not showing her true self to others.
When she made a trip with friends just before her graduation from university, she told them in a nervous voice, “I like girls,” and “I am sorry for concealing it.”
One of the friends told Masuhara, “It must have been painful for you to have struggled alone.” Read more