Kids of Japanese LGBT Families Speak Out on New Program

Kids of Japanese LGBT Families Speak Out on New Program

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Nehorin Pahorin
Picture: NHK's Nehorin Pahorin
A program on NHK interviewed over 10 children from LGBT households about some of the issues faced by LGBT families in Japan.

The issues faced by LGBT people in Japan have been receiving increasingly more positive mainstream press coverage lately. A great new example comes from a program on public broadcaster NHK, which devoted its first new episode of the year to an interview with the children of an LGBT couple.

Support – and Prejudice

As I’ve written before, attitudes towards LGBT couples – particularly toward same-sex marriage – have grown increasingly liberal in Japan, just as they have in the rest of the world. In 2015, according to Nikkei, some 51% of the populance already supported same-sex marriage. A survey last year by advocacy group Marriage for All Japan found that number had ballooned to over 70%.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that anti-LGBT bigotry is a thing of the past. Right-wing politician Sugita Mio made waves in 2018, for example, when she wrote an essay declaring that LGBT people were “unproductive” and shouldn’t receive taxpayer money. And in December 2020, two other politicians made bigoted and hateful remarks slandering LGBT people.

To combat such bigotry and foster better understanding, some TV programs have begun focusing more attention on LGBT couples, telling their stories to a larger audience. Television station NTV’s morning news program, Ohayon!, has its own recurring segment, such as this episode exploring the life of a lesbian couple.

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In a series spotlighting Japan’s LGBT couples, Ohayon! ran an interview today with a lesbian couple about their everyday lives. When asked how they wished society would change, both said they wished for “a more accepting society that makes coming out unnecessary.” #lgbt pic.twitter.com/uRlxJiJpUg

A New Life

Aki described how she bluntly asked Aa-chan "Are you a boy or a girl?" Aa-chan responded, "What do you think? What do you prefer?" Share on X

Another program that’s begun to tackle the subject is Nehorin Pahorin.

If you’ve read my article on the unfortunate death of a young woman in Tokyo due to a drinking dare, you’ve heard me talk about this series. If you haven’t, you’re likely wondering why this article’s picture features three puppet pigs. Nehorin Pahorin is an interview segment hosted by Yamasato Ryota and YOU (both of Terrace House fame). The whole thing is puppeted – the hosts are moles and the guests pigs – and the voices of guests are scrambled in order to preserve their anonymity. (The show’s name is a play on the Japanese word nehori hahori, meaning “nosy”.)

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Nehorin had previously done an episode on a lesbian couple where the couple worried openly about whether their two children would eventually face hate and prejudice from classmates. In response to that, Nehorin interviewed over ten kids of LGBT couples across Japan. In its latest episode, it focuses primarily on three of them – a trio of sisters in their teens whose mom is in a relationship with a gender-fluid person. The show also invited back the couple from their previous episode to watch.

The trio of kids interviewed, along with non-identifying pictures of them and which celebrity they most closely resemble.

The kids – identified as Mio, Aki, and Yuuko – describe how their mom, Mariko, divorced their father six years ago. After, she began dating “Aa-chan,” whom she had known since before her divorce. Aki describes how she bluntly asked Aa-chan “Are you a boy or a girl?” Aa-chan responded, “What do you think? What do you prefer?”

A Struggling Single Mother

The kids related how things were hard for their mom after the divorce. Juggling work while raising three daughters as a single mother was stressful. At one point, they were concerned to see their mom asleep at the kitchen counter, wondering if she’d collapsed from exhaustion.

It was around that time that Aa-chan started spending more time in the house to help their mom out. While Aa-chan had been introduced to the kids as their mom’s friend, Yuuko says she and Aki soon realized their mom’s relationship with Aa-chan was “different” than her other friendships. (Mio sheepishly admits she “didn’t notice a thing until they said something….I thought, ‘they seem like really good friends.'”)

Eventually, their mom took the kids to dinner where she came out and, tearfully, asked for her daughters’ support. “If you get bullied because of me, I’ll end it,” she told the kids. To which Yuuko responded, “Don’t worry – we won’t hang out with people like that. We’ll cut ’em off.”

The Search for Support

The show also interviews Mariko about her experiences as a lesbian woman in a relationship with a genderfluid person. Mariko tells how she felt like she needed support but didn’t even know what to search for online. A search for “lesbian same sex marriage single mother”, for example, yielded zero results.

Mariko says she and Aa-chan eventually found a support group of other lesbian couples. But no one had as many kids as Mariko did. “I thought I had to deal with this on my own….That’s why it took me a year to tell them.”

The kids, who watched their mother’s interview for the first time, said they had no idea their mom struggled for so long. “She never let it show even when she was worried about something,” said Aki. “So I’m shocked to hear she struggled with this for a year.”

Aksi also confessed that there was a time when she was worried her relationship with Aa-chan meant they’d have to forget about their dad. “I didn’t like it, but I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to hurt them and cause them pain.”

Sadly, not everyone was as accepting of Mariko and Aa-chan as Mariko’s daughters. Mariko and Aa-chan eventually had a wedding ceremony – but Mariko’s parents didn’t attend. “Grandpa opposed [their relationship],” said Aki. In fact, he got so angry he collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital.

Aki also reported having issues with her friends. When she told one friend that her mom was dating a woman, the friend replied, “That’s disgusting. If it were my house, I’d leave.” Yuuko says she has to think about whether she tells a specific person. She confesses she’s told people that Aa-chan is “a relative” in order not to upset certain people. But Aki also added that others, like her best friend, have been fully supportive.

Butting Up Against Society’s Norms

"If you get bullied because of me, I'll end it," she told the kids. To which Yuuko responded, "Don't worry – we won't hang out with people like that. We'll cut 'em off." Share on X

Nehorin Pahorin also interviewed other kids about their experiences. Some of them talk about times when they’ve struggled with how their family works versus society’s expectations.

One example is Kazuo, who’s now in his 40s. Kazuo explains how he was raised almost from birth by his two mothers and always regarded it as normal. One day in daycare, however, his teacher asked the class to draw pictures of their fathers for Father’s Day. It was then, Kazuo said, “that I realized how my family differs starkly from others.”

All in all, this episode of Nehorin Pahorin sensitively provided insight into the everyday issues faced by LGBT couples and their kids in Japan. I hope they do more episodes like that – and that other programs follow suit.

New Uniqlo Commercial Featuring LGBTQ+ Couple Receives Positive Response

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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