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J-pop idol Shinjiro Atae’s coming out is pivotal for LGBTQ+ representation in Japan

Japanese singer-songwriter Shinjiro Atae came out of the closet in front of over 2,000 fans during a performance in Line Cube Shibuya in Tokyo on July 26.

“I respect you and believe you deserve to hear this directly from me,” he said in an emotional speech. “For years, I struggled to accept a part of myself. But now, after all I have been through, I finally have the courage to open up to you: I am a gay man.”


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A post shared by SHINJIRO 與 真司郎 (@shinjiroatae1126)

For 15 years, Atae performed in the popular group AAA before it went on a hiatus in 2020. He has been based in Los Angeles lately and is pursuing a solo career in the United States.

His family and former bandmates accompanied him to show their support for his announcement during the show. Following her son’s statement, Atae’s mother told the press that she is “200 per cent supportive” of the 34-year-old artist.

With his brave move to come out, this is a significant moment in hopes of changing the landscape of LGBTQ+ rights and representation in Japan. As the first pop star at his level of stardom to come out as gay, this could aid in creating a new level of awareness and acceptance to help put LGBTQ+ protections in place, If not, at least foster an environment where important topics like these are addressed.

Japan is the only country in the G7 political forum that has not legalized same-sex marriage, though several human rights groups have forwarded efforts to force the government to acknowledge the need for this. The argument for this is that the ban against same-sex marriage had prohibited free access to rights like joint home ownership and right to adoption.

A Nagoya district court in May called the ban “unconstitutional” despite other courts ruling otherwise. In one way or another, this indicates a shift in acceptance to LGBTQ+ couples. With that Atae’s announcement is a leap towards representation, legal protection, and recognition of LGBTQ+ couples as it also came amid the approval of an anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination law in the country.


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