Culture

The ABCs of LGBT+ in Japan

A crash course in Japanese vocabulary to help you navigate all sexualities and genders under the LGBT rainbow 🌈.

By 2 min read

LGBT+ issues have been a huge topic this past year. In October 2018, hit reality TV show Terrace House welcomed their first openly bisexual cast member Shunsuke Ikezoe. In February 2019, thirteen gay and lesbian couples sued the Japanese government in a bid to legalize same-sex marriage. In May of this year, the biggest lesbian bar in Tokyo got called out for refusing entry to a transgender woman at a women-only event. And in more positive news, at the beginning of this month, Ibaraki became the first prefecture in Japan to recognize same-sex partnerships.

With topics coming up more frequently than ever in the news, on TV shows, and even in everyday conversations, having a grasp of Japanese LGBT+ vocabulary is sure to come in handy. And if you’re a friend of Dorothy yourself, reviewing these terms before your next trip to a Japanese LGBT+ space will be great to help you describe your own identity and understand the various labels yourself.

While you might get by sometimes with simply saying English words in a katakana-like way (for example, “gay” translates pretty easily into ゲイ or gei), saying the Japanese word ノンケ (nonke) will communicate to Japanese people that you’re actually straight much smoother than saying ストレート (sutoreto).

Let’s take a look at some of the general vocabulary first, then go down the list of LGBTQIA.

General LGBT+ terms

Japanese Romaji English
同性愛 どうせいあい dousei ai Homosexual love (used for lesbian and gay romantic/sexual love)
セクマイ sekumai Abbreviation of the English “sexual minority” to mean anything under LGBTQ+
同性婚どうせいこん dousei kon Same-sex marriage
ホモ homo Homosexual
ノンケ nonke Straight

L is for Lesbian

Japanese Romaji English
 

レズビアン

ビアン

rezubian or bian Lesbian
おなべ onabe A masculine lesbian woman, crossdresser, or trans man. The literal translation is “cooking pot.” It was originally used as a derogatory term, but now also has a neutral meaning.

G for Gay

Japanese Romaji English
ゲイ gei Gay
おかま okama A feminine gay man, crossdresser, or trans woman. The literal translation is “rice pot.” It was also originally used as a derogatory term, but now has a neutral meaning, too.

B is for Bisexual

Japanese Romaji English
 

バイセクシャル

バイ

bisekusharu or bi Bisexual

T is for Transgender

Japanese Romaji English
 

トランスジェンダー

トランス

toransujenda or toransu Transgender
性同一性障害せいどういつせいしょうがい
seidoitsuseishogai A more medical term for transgender
FTM efu tsu emu Female-to-male (identifies male, born female) transgender
MTF emu tsu efu Male-to-female (identifies female, born male) transgender

Q is for Queer

Japanese English Romaji
X ジェンダー ekusu jenda Genderqueer — literally translates to “X- gender”
FTX/MTX efu tsu ekisu / emu tsu ekisu Female-to-genderqueer (identifies genderqueer, born female) / Male-to-genderqueer (identifies genderqueer, born male)

I is for Intersex

Japanese Romaji English
 

インターセックス

半陰陽はんいんよう

intasekusu  or haninyo Intersex, or someone with reproductive/sexual anatomy that doesn’t strictly fit female or male

 

中性ちゅうせい chusei A general term for intersex or androgynous

A for Asexual

Japanese Romaji English
 

アセクシュアル

無性愛むせいあい

asekushuaru / museiai  Asexual

To get further acquainted with LGBT+ experiences, news and issues in Japan, read our related stories here on the blog and over at GaijinPot Travel.

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