How things have changed! I still remember when I was an awkward, young lesbian in Tokyo, trying to figure out who I was in a society that had very little resources for LGBT folks. Although the days of being young, scared and confused are long behind me, I hope that by being unapologetically out and proud I can help young Japanese LGBT people find the courage to come out.
Ten years in New York after college really changed my perspective on almost everything. Rubbing shoulders every day with people of all races, nationalities, classes, cultures, religions, and gender identities will do that to you. I grew to understand other perspectives and to assert my own, and I slowly found the confidence to be accepting and proud of my identity.
You will be surprised by who will step up to rally to your cause. I certainly was. It started in high school when I apprehensively came out to my closest friends, fearing rejection or worse once the words were past my lips. They were anything but cruel, and I count myself lucky to have met compassionate, intelligent and accepting people from all walks of life through the years since.
When I met my now wife at a lesbian bar in Brooklyn almost a decade ago, I never imagined she would be instrumental in supporting me through all of my trials and tribulations. Her love and confidence in me taught me the importance of being true to myself no matter what. I was surprised and touched when my relatives welcomed her into our family with open arms when we got married in 2012 in New York. It was definitely a difficult journey for me and my parents, but we’ve learned to respect each other, and at the end of the day, love triumphed over fear and ignorance.
I recently moved back to Japan to find a city that had changed quite a bit in my absence. There are a surprising number of resources and support organizations for LGBT and other minority groups, and courageous people actively fighting for the rights and dignity of all people. The country itself is becoming more diverse and with it, more progressive despite what the government may want to have happen.
Coming out is often a terrifying experience, regardless of the response or outcome. But also know that there is strength in numbers, and if you don’t see a friendly face in those around you, you have countless people (many whom you yet to meet) who will support and love you for the amazing person that you are.