Publication Details

McLelland, MJ, The role of the 'tojisha' in current debates about sexual minority rights in Japan, Japanese Studies, 29(2), 2009, 193-207. Copyright Taylor & Francis 2009. Original item available here


‘Speaking as a tojisha’ has become an important strategy in establishing ‘correct knowledge’ about sexual minority cultures in contemporary Japan. Originally developed in a legal context where it referred to the ‘parties’ in court proceedings, in the 1970s tojisha was taken up by citizens’ groups campaigning for the right of self determination for the ‘parties concerned’ facing discrimination and has become a central concept for all minority self-advocacy groups. In the 1990s the discourse of tojisha sei (tojisha-ness) was adopted by gay rights groups and by spokespersons for lesbian and transgender communities in a battle to change public perceptions of sexual minorities through insisting on their right to speak about themselves in their own voices.

This paper considers two unforeseen outcomes of the primacy of the tojisha in current LGBTQ discourse. Firstly, through insisting on attending to the voice of each individual, it has proven difficult to establish common links between discriminated communities (or within communities) because of widely diverging perspectives. Also, given the broad variety in many individuals’ experience of non-normative sexuality, having to identify and speak as a tôjisha has engendered normalizing effects. The current primacy of the tojisha reinforces developmental narratives of sexual-identity formation (only the ‘out’ homosexual is truly authentic) and in so doing inadvertently silences those unable or unwilling to prioritize the sexual in their presentation of self, or whose modes of self-expression fall outside current orthodoxies that provide the boundaries for sexual-minority identification.



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