LGBTQ: Coming Out Letters (カミングアウト・レターズ)

December 10th, 2014

COLComing Out Letters (カミングアウト・レターズ)、edited by Sunagawa Hideki and RYOJI, is a collection of correspondences between gays/lesbians and their parents or teachers and the responses. Chapters begin with the lesbian or gay person writing about the circumstances in which they came out to their parent or teacher – about aborted attempts, fears, and consequences

In the first 2/3 of the book,we encounter a variety of emotions on both sides – confusion, fear, acceptance and love. In almost all cases, mothers were quicker to accept their children, and while a few fathers were initially not accepting, in every case, the family found their way back to each other. Especially touching are the correspondences between a performance artist and her awesome mom, a young man whose mother accompanied him to Pride parades and cooked for his friends and a story relayed by one of the editors of a young man, initially rejected by his father, but who eventually was able to accept his son, and be there when he married his husband.

The final third of the book are letters by former students telling former teachers about moments which were, for the students, a coming out, even if the teacher missed it. Of these, the most interesting is a teacher who expresses understanding of a student because he is a Christian, which is a small minority in Japan. Being a member of a misunderstood minority has made him completely accepting of her choices.

This is followed by a lovely group talk between parents about their experiences and a final note to people considering coming out. (Summary – whether you do, or not, the choice you make right now is the right choice for you right now.)

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Letters are footnoted with explanations of LGBTQ terminology and media mentioned, which strongly reminded me how honestly important to non-gay people decent media representation of gay people is. We fear most what we are unfamiliar with. You may or may not care that Ellen Degeneres or Anderson Cooper is gay, but when people who do not know they know gay people learn about famous, successful people who are gay, it familiarizes them with the idea that it’s not an invitation to a miserable, lonely life of self-loathing.

My number one takeaway from this book is, honestly, if you remove the fear of rejection associated with coming out, gay people are pretty damn boring. ^_^ We’re forced to make a crisis out of what for straight people is just growing up and falling in lust and love. (Not that that isn’t a crisis for some straight folks, too…) But when parents get over their fears and confusions, they find their children are still their children and children learn their parents are way more amazing than they expected.

Ratings:

Overall – 8

This isn’t a riveting read for a casual reader, but if you wanted a overview of Gay and Lesbian life in Japan right now, or were studying LGBTQ Japanese culture I’d recommend this book completely.

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4 Responses

  1. Phil says:

    Thank you very much for the review.

    Would you happen to know of any similar book in English from an American or British perspective? I tried to find anything with a focus on letters but nothing turned up.

    I’m looking for something that could be used as a resource in a self-access center for ESL-teaching.

    I really appreciate any help you can provide.

    • Hi Phil – Of course, there are many dozens of similar autobiographical stories by LGBTQ folks about their experiences and there is a metric ton of fiction and non-fiction on the topic. Because there are *so* many personal tales of this sort, I can’t pick one or two to tell you about.

      The first thing I strongly recommend is visit a lending library in a metro area, or if your library has an online catalog tied into a larger network, see what kind of books are available to you. If the public library can’t help you, talk to a librarian at a nearby university.

      After you’ve plumbed the depths of your library resources, some bookstore chains still keep LGBTQ sections, and if you’re in or near a city, there may even be a real gay bookstore, which can provide you with tons of suggestions.

      Barring all that, out an online bookstore. They will have an LGBTQ category and a search for “Coming Out” will yield any number of how-to guides and personal narrative.

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