A seventeen-year-old Japanese high school student defied stigma and came out as gay during a English-language speech contest in Hokkaido Prefecture.
Watch video below.
As popular as LGBT people are in Japanese fiction, real people face endless cultural pressure to enter into heterosexual marriages and have children, no matter what their own feelings are. As Japanese Daily Press noted, “Japan is infamous for the tremendous pressure the society exerts on its people in trying to be homogenous – that nobody is different and no one sticks out like a sore thumb.”
The student’s identity is currently unknown, although his speech was posted on YouTube by Stonewall Japan. Activists around the world are praising the student for his bravery, given not only his culture but his age.
In his speech, titled “I Have a Dream, Too,” the student asked, “Why do gay people have to face discrimination? Is it because they are not heterosexual? Is it a sin to love somebody of the same gender? The law cannot control love or people’s feelings.”
The reason for his passion on the subject soon turned personal: “I have faced discrimination too. I am gay. I realized this when I was a junior high-school student; although I never told anybody, somehow my classmates guessed that I was. They rejected me and treated me like I was not a human being; one girl said to me ‘I can’t believe someone like you exists.’ It made me feel like I was completely alone. In high school I decided to keep my secret safe and never tell anyone about who I really am on the inside. But this year I wanted to stop hiding that part of myself.”
He continued, “In Japan, we are afraid of being different, but we don’t show our hate so openly. It is silent discrimination. If nobody talks about the problem then it doesn’t exist. Many gay people in Japan hide who they really are because they are afraid of being rejected, not with angry words or threats of violence, but with isolation. Being gay in Japan is a very lonely existence.
“Maybe it will be difficult for me to live my life just like other people. But this is my life. I’m going to live it no matter what people say. Martin Luther King once said ‘Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.’ When I feel scared I often think of this quote. Making this speech was my first step, I never thought that I could tell people that I am gay.
“I too have a dream. I have a dream of a world without any prejudice, hate or ignorance which causes blind discrimination against what we can’t understand. I can see the road ahead will be difficult, but I must be brave. Not just for myself, but for other young people like me.”