15+ Interesting Japanese Words For LGBTQ

LGBTQ Japanese words rainbow flag - Ling app

As a Japanese learner, knowing Japanese words for LGBTQ people is crucial to being inclusive and respectful. There is a growing necessity to express understanding and acceptance for LGBTQ people and assure them that they belong. Now more than ever, gender identity and sexual orientation regarding same-sex relationships have found their place in everyday conversations and life.

In this post, we will explore helpful Japanese vocabulary and phrases related to LGBTQ culture. We’ll dive into different gender identity terms, and if you identify as part of the community, hopefully, you’ll be able to use these words in real life!

LGBTQ History: Pre-Modern Japan

Pansexuality is the easiest way to describe sexuality in this era of Japan. Love between all sexes and gender identities, even the non-conforming ones, definitely existed and were considered a normal part of life. In simple terms, sexuality was just thought of as something you do, not something you are, that was meant to segregate you.

Ancient Japan often celebrated and idealized gay culture! Samurai were a huge part of the practicing nanshoku (男色, male-male love) groups. Nowadays, this part of history is usually buried underneath the manly bushido code that we’ve come to associate with samurai, thanks in large part to the modernization of patriarchal influence in media. However, if you want to read more about the samurai and their role in LGBT history, check out this excellent article.

While early Japan showed evidence of sexual liberation, the country was still behind in terms of gender equality, with little to no acknowledgment of female-female relationships and attraction. Though seldomly noted aside from alluding nods in pre-modern texts, lesbian women definitely existed even if they didn’t get their own identity term until around the 1970s when the English loan word, rezubian, was popularized in the Japanese language.

rainbow paint on hands LGBTQ pride

Kitchenware + Japanese Words For LGBTQ

Have you ever heard of using kitchenware items in conjunction with Japanese words for LGBTQ? Though curious, using words (like “rice pot,” for example) in conjunction with gender identity and sexual orientation terms are native to Japan and used exclusively in this country.

Let’s take a look at some of them.

Okama (おかま)

Okama generally refers to a rice pot, but this term can be traced back to Japan’s Edo Period, where it was used to describe gay men, specifically the recipients of anal sex. This word has followed into modern times and is still widely used today.

This word can be conflicting, as it is used as a self-referential term for gay men themselves to reclaim but also as a slur used against them. However, this word is thrown around as a way to describe effeminate men (like drag queens) instead of as a derogatory term. That being said, ask your friends first if they don’t mind being called this word!

Here’s a fun fact: some say that this word came up because the shape of a rice pot resembles the shape of a person’s bottom. Cheeky!

Onabe (おなべ)

Onabe literally means “cooking pan,” but in this context, this word is used to describe someone who is female-born and now lives their life identifying as a man. Some say this term has roots in the Edo Period and refers to female servants.

Remember, it’s important to honor people’s feelings in how they prefer to be addressed because what can be an “okay” word to say to one person may be a derogatory term for another, so please ask first!

Okoge (おこげ)

The literal translation of okoge means “burnt rice stuck on the pot” and is slang that refers to gay men, specifically to a woman who enjoys the company of gay men. This term is typically only used within the LGBTQ community and is less well-known throughout mainstream society.

How Do You Say LGBTQ Or Queer In Japanese?

The umbrella term in Japanese for queer that includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals is seitekishōsūsha (性的少数者) which means sexual minority. A different way to identify LGBTQ individuals with same-sex attraction is dōseiaisha (同性愛者) or “same-sex-love person.”

Let’s check out some Japanese words for LGBTQ that will help you name gender identities and sexual orientations.

Coming outカミングアウトKamingu auto
Sexual orientation性的嗜好Seiteki shikō
Bisexual両性愛Ryousei ai
NonbinaryX-ジェンダーEkusu jenda

Frequently Asked Questions About LGBTQ In Japan

1. What Is An Okama?

Okama is Japanese slang for homosexual that literally means rice pot, attached with the honorific prefix of “O-.” This Japanese term is used to refer to a gay man, especially one who dresses femininely or is a drag queen.

2. Is The Japanese Language Gendered?

In Japanese, the language tends to veer off into two binary paths of speech styles: words typically used by men and words used by women. Japanese people tend to adhere to these ways of speaking, literally called 女言葉 (women’s language) and 男言葉 (men’s language).

If this is interesting and you want to learn more, take a look at this guide for an in-depth dive into gendered language in Japan.

If you’re familiar with manga, you might have heard of BL or the “Boys’ Love” genre. Called yaoi (やおい) in Japanese, BL fiction focuses on male-male romantic attraction and is a popular manga created by female authors and for female readers!

Why? The world of BL is specifically tailored to what is believed to be female desires and relationship sensibilities. In other words, while the main characters of the stories are male, they tend to have “feminine” or gentle hearts in their male bodies.

Closing Words

For queer language learners, especially for those seeking to make a trip to Japan, the question of, “How do I share my own identity ?” is probably something that gets thought about. If someone in the LGBTQ community wishes to make their queer identity known, they should have the right words in their Japanese vocabulary to accurately communicate that.

Now that you’ve reached the end of this post, you know a bunch of Japanese terms that will help you speak in a more inclusive and welcoming manner for people in the LGBT community. If you want to learn more Japanese and increase your knowledge, check out the Ling app for fun language lessons that will help you grow your vocabulary!

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