What’s it like being a gay student in Japan?
Loretto Cunningham has had a rough day at work. A well-meaning colleague inadvertently revealed her sexuality to a senior member of staff at one of the primary schools in Tokyo where she teaches English.
The school was immediately supportive and reassured her that it changed nothing, but Cunningham, 29, who is originally from West Virginia and has lived in Japan for five years, does not like her private life being the potential subject of staff room gossip.
But whatever her own tribulations related to being a sexual minority in Japan, Cunningham knows that it is nothing compared to the pressures that face young people who are unsure of their sexuality or identify with the nation’s lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender (LGBT) communities.
“The situation is very similar to the ‘don’t ask and don’t tell’ attitude in Japanese society in general, but these are children who have questions about being LGBT and they don’t have anyone to turn to for advice or support,” said Cunningham, who is president of the Japan chapter of Stonewall, the Britain-based charity that campaigns for rights for sexual minorities.