Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 497–520 | Cite as

Coming Out to Parents in Japan: A Sociocultural Analysis of Lived Experiences

  • Masami TamagawaEmail author
Original Paper


While empirical studies on LGBT individuals coming out to their parents are common in Western societies, these studies are rare in non-Western societies. This article attempts to fill that void by shedding light on the experiences of Japanese individuals coming out to their parents. The coming-out narratives of Japanese LGBT individuals (N = 43) were examined. This study revealed three important findings. (1) Similar to the findings of studies in Western societies, Japanese LGBT individuals typically consider coming out to their fathers considerably more difficult than coming out to their mothers. Moreover, many study participants expressed the absence of a significant relationship with their fathers, even before coming out—making coming out to their fathers unnecessary. (2) Similar to the findings in previous studies, Japanese mothers’ responses are often reactionary and abusive; in fact, a disproportionate number of Japanese lesbian, bisexual female, and transgender Female-to-Male/X-gender individuals reported their mothers’ markedly negative, personal responses, illustrating why some were reluctant to come out to their mothers. (3) By contrast, Japanese gay and transgender Male-to-Female/X-gender individuals reported their mothers’ responses were comparatively undemonstrative. Also, they typically attribute their mothers’ negative responses to the fact that mothers are the solo overseers of heteronormative norms at home. Overall, Japanese LGBT individuals’ experiences reveal the gendered effects of Japanese sociocultural configuration, as well as the Japanese cultural implication of disclosing one’s sexuality.


Coming out to parents Japan LGBT Culture Narrative Heteronormativity 



Portions of this research were supported by a Faculty Research Grant at Skidmore College, whose support is gratefully acknowledged. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skidmore College.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares he has no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of World Languages and LiteraturesSkidmore CollegeSaratoga SpringsUSA

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