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Japanese Pop Star Shinjiro Atae Comes Out As Gay

Japanese Pop Star Shinjiro Atae Comes Out As Gay

Shinjiro Atae
Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

The AAA singer wants to help others struggle less with their sexuality.

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J-pop star Shinjiro Atae made history when he came out as gay on stage during a fan event, to first silence then cheers from the crowd.

The former AAA singer had taken a break from performing before he shared this news. Fans had gathered in a Tokyo venue to hear Atae discuss “the challenge of my life.”

“I respect you and believe you deserve to hear this directly from me,” he read from a prepared letter “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 about something. I am a gay man.”

Atae shared that he hopes that sharing his truth will help other queer people in Japan. “I don’t want people to struggle like me,” he said.

Atae’s coming out is brave and bold as Japan remains a conservative country. Same-sex marriage remains unrecognized there, and pop stars still fear losing fans and sponsors if they were to come out.

This is why it took Atae who began performing at age 14 so long to finally come out. “I thought if I was found out it would end my career, and so I couldn’t tell anyone,” said Mr. Atae told The New York Times, in an interview before the public announcement.

The singer credited his time living in Los Angeles where he witnessed gay couples being affectionate in public for helping him to gain the strength to open up. “Everyone was so open,” he recalled. “People would talk about their vulnerabilities. In Japan, people think it’s best not to talk about those things.”

While living in LA he began hanging out in gay neighborhoods, fearing he would be spotted by paparazzi. Eventually realized he needed to come out, so he told his mother first. “It was the most nervous I have ever been in coming out,” he said, who told the NYTimes she is now “200 percent supportive.”

Atae is ready for some backlash to his coming out. “Whatever you do, there will be haters,” he said. “I can only focus on the people I might be helping.”

He's also hoping to help queer people in Japan with his music. That same evening Atae also debuted a new song, “Into The Light.” A portion of the proceeds from the song’s release will be donated to Pride House Tokyo, Japan’s first permanent LGBTQ+ center, and ReBit, an organization providing resources and support for LGBTQ+ youth. The song was co-written with singer-songwriter Wrabel (Pink, Backstreet Boys, Kygo, Kesha, etc.) and writer-production duo Afterhrs (One Direction, Maroon 5, etc). Check out the song’s music video below.

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Rachel Shatto

EIC of PRIDE.com

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.