34-year-old AAA member and soloist Shinjiro Atae has recently came out as gay to a crowd of 2000 people at a live in Tokyo, as reported by The New York Times.
Atae had been on hiatus for two years from shows, but revealed:
“I respect you and believe you deserve to hear this directly from me. 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.”
“I don’t want people to struggle like me,” he said.
He also posted an extended message on Instagram.
In an interview with the NYT a day before he would come out, he explained his fears and goals.
For most of his performing life, “I thought if I was found out, it would end my career, and so I couldn’t tell anyone,” said Mr. Atae during an hour-and-a-half interview the day before his announcement at the apartment of his elder sister in western Tokyo, where he sat on a lime green straw mat in a gray T-shirt and baggy black faux leather shorts.
The decision to open up about his sexuality, he said, evolved over seven years of living in Los Angeles, where he saw how freely gay couples could show affection in public and built an extensive support network.
“Everyone was so open,” he said. “People would talk about their vulnerabilities. In Japan, people think it’s best not to talk about those things.”
He had also come out to his family, specifically mentioning his mom and her eventual support.
He would have to tell his family, his mother first. “It was the most nervous I have ever been in coming out,” he said.
“I was super surprised, and I had never imagined it,” said his mother, Suzuko, 66, who asked to keep her surname private to avoid harassment.
Although she supported her son personally, she balked when he said he wanted to go public. She was anxious about Mr. Atae facing online attacks or discrimination. Now, she said, “I am 200 percent supportive.”
On Wednesday night, his mother sat in the back row of the auditorium, across the aisle from her two other children and their families, crying as he broke down sobbing as he told the audience that he once “thought my feelings were wrong.”
He also seems to know that backlash is inevitable.
Coming out, he knew, would likely draw criticism. “Whatever you do, there will be haters,” he said. “I can only focus on the people I might be helping.”
It’s a sad reality, but I’m glad he seems to have thought this through and prepared for it.
His show closed with his new music video playing, featuring lyrics like, “I spent so long being these versions of myself, I forgot who I was, I was somebody else, you give me something I’ve been missing my whole life, I’m coming into the light.”
While there are figures in Japanese entertainment who have come out before or who people generally know are gay, somebody of his relevance explicitly coming out is definitely a trailblazing moment, and I hope it has the impact it deserves. Should go without saying at this point, but wishing the best for Shinjiro and I hope he’s able to continue on with his life and career as normal.