Japanese gay men's experiences of gender: negotiating the hetero system

Thomas Baudinette*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Throughout much of Japanese history, negotiating expectations concerning gender has been central to Japanese gay men’s experiences. Within this chapter, I review scholarly and activist literature as well as drawing upon an ethnography of the Japanese gay male culture to explore how Japanese gay men negotiate heteronormative expectations concerning the nature of masculinity. First, I review the theoretical work of gay activist Fushimi Noriaki, who argues that societal pressures lead Japanese gay men to situate themselves within a “hetero system” of “gender/sexual duality” that posits same-sex-desiring men possess the same “sex/gender” as heterosexual women. Second, I explore representations of cross-dressing comedians known as onē within Japanese media and discuss how controversies over this mainstream image strongly influence how gay men understand their gendered identities in Japan, providing a practical example of how Japanese gay men navigate the “hetero system.” Third, I demonstrate through ethnographically informed analyses of gay media that the Japanese gay culture privileges strongly heteronormative depictions of masculinity as normatively desirable, exploring how the “hetero system” contours representations of gender within gay sub-cultural spaces. Overall, through a discussion of the “hetero system,” the chapter introduces key theories related to the study of Japan’s gay male culture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge companion to gender and Japanese culture
EditorsJennifer Coates, Lucy Fraser, Mark Pendleton
Place of PublicationLondon ; New York
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781315179582, 9781351716796
ISBN (Print)9781138895201
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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