Japanese pop star Shinjiro Atae stood in front of over 2,000 fans on Wednesday and spoke publicly about “the challenge of my life.” After spending two years performing as part of the hit group AAA, he took some time off to attend school before launching his solo career.
But after spending seven years in Los Angeles and seeing how LGBTQ+ people lived in the States, Atae opted to live openly back in Japan, a conservative country where sexual orientation is rarely discussed. Japan is the only G7 country that has not legalized same-sex marriage.
When a Tennessee teenager came out to his mom in front of the pop star, she teared up and shared a beautiful moment with the family.
“I respect you and believe you deserve to hear this directly from me,” he told the crowd. “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.”
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“I don’t want people to struggle like me,” he added.
No other entertainers of his stature and popularity have come out as queer. Now 34, Atae has been in the spotlight since he joined AAA when he was 14. He was the youngest member of the group.
His former bandmates and family joined him at the event to provide support and show their respect.
“I am 200 percent supportive,” his mother told the press, while Misako Uno, a AAA member, added, “I want to be a good cushion” for him.
While he admitted to fans that he has struggled with coming out and what people would think about him or how it would affect his career, he said he had decided to do what was best for him and his fans.
“Whatever you do, there will be haters,” he said. “I can only focus on the people I might be helping.”
After he spoke, fans applauded and shouted, “I love you!”
He closed the night by debuting his new single and video, “Into The Light.” The English-language song is an apparent reference to his decision to come out as a gay man.