【June 2019 No.403】Learning from LGBT(*1) People and Seeing the Love of God in Sexual Diversity

Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend) by the Kyodan Board of Publications’ periodical recently issued this article as the first in a series entitled as above.

by Taira Aika, pastor, Kawawa Church, Kanagawa District

                                                                                 Theological Seminary for Rural Mission teacher


Christianity often sees “sexuality” as a taboo subject. It is a private matter but something that everyone should take seriously. Some people are even hesitant to look at an article on such a subject. But many others find it hard to live when things related to it are hidden away. The attitude toward gender(*2) difference that says, “Males are like this, and females are like that” leads to, solidifies, and makes real the distorted view that men look after women and women are looked after by men. It also can mean that your natural sexuality(*3) is not understood by those around you, which can be very painful. When people suffer because their gender identity(*4) is different from their physical body, they may actually suffer even more if the people around them do not understand what they are and their pain.


LGBT is an abbreviation  of the words lesbian(*5), gay(*6), bisexual(*7), and transgender(*8). More than a reference to the people themselves, the letters symbolize the difficulty some people have as they live in a society where it is taken for granted that people will love someone of the opposite sex or accept their own physical body. There are people who use other terms, such as “asexual”(*9) or “x-gender”(*10) to identify themselves as well.


In church, by using the words from Genesis to say “God made us man and woman; people will marry to become one; and they will be blessed with children,” we will often go on to say that LGBT people have disobeyed God, and therefore attack them and drive them out of the church. But modern theology is becoming much more diverse. Some people will say, “The Bible says ‘no,’ so the answer is ‘no’,” but others will raise the question, “Are you really obeying every place in the Bible where it says ‘no’?” There are rules about food, impurity and uncleanliness, but not many people say, “The Bible says ‘no,’ so we must say ‘no’ to them.” We read certain parts of the Bible as they are and go beyond some other parts in our interpretation.


In doing so, some people will insist we cannot allow this with regard to LGBT, saying that our sexuality is a gift from God that allow us to create progeny, and will take the position that any other form of sexuality is an abuse of the Bible and a misuse of our sexuality. Behind a such claim, there is the view that human beings are created as male and female, each has their own roles, and that sexuality should only be expressed in a marriage relationship. Some people think God did not create homosexuals and others think that God created homosexual people but test them to overcome it. Such people also do not accept transgender people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex and gender.


However, others see that just as there are left-handed and right-handed people, with regard to sexual ori-entation(*11) there are homosexual and heterosexual people, bisexual people, and asexual people; and they will reinterpret the Bible to say that we are all called by God to build sincere and true relationships, who-ever we are. Procreation is not the only act to be blessed by God. We need to think about and raise a question about how men and women should be and the legitimacy of marriage itself. Whatever position we choose, it may be connected to our faith. But we must remember those who are struggling and suffering. I am one who suffered as a Christian.


I was born into a minister’s family in Okinawa. The name of Aika has two meanings.The Chinese characters used for my name “Aika”(愛香)mean “fragrance of love.” On the other hand, I was given this name because aika sounds like a cry for peace in Okinawa. The title of the Book of Lamentations in the Bible is also  pronounced Aika but is written with other Chinese characters (哀歌). My name is often mistaken for that of a female, but I am actually male and even have a beard. And I am homosexual. From an early age, I noticed that I was attracted to other males. But when I reached junior high school, I realized society as a whole thought this was strange, and I felt isolated. I went to a church-related senior high school and was taught that homosexuality is an unforgivable sin that rejects God’s order of creation. Being rejected by society, and feeling that I was disliked by God, every day I thought only of dying. What kept me from dying was what my parents had taught me from a young age. I learned from them that “even if the whole world is against you, Jesus is on your side.” I suffered because of Christianity, but it was also Christianity that supported me and kept me alive.


Little by little, I came to understand that there were differences among Christians. There were those who continued to say homosexuality is a sin, but there was also a pastor who said, “God has created you as a homosexual person and has blessed you.” I wanted to learn more about the Bible, and that’s what led me to the Theological Seminary for Rural Mission in Machida, Tokyo, where I was able to come out(*12) as a homosexual person. Then, I became one of the first persons to come out and become a pastor. A lesbian woman came out several months before I did and became the first openly LGBT pastor in Japan.


As an openly gay pastor,  I have heard many stories from LGBT Christians. Some told me that after they came out, their pastors continuously told them, with anger, that they were lacking in faith.  Some told me that they were suddenly and unexpectedly surrounded by church members who prayed for them—a very frightening experience. Others were told by Sunday school staff that they could no longer work with the children because they would have a bad influence on them. Still others spoke to their pastor about wanting to value their faith as a homosexual person and were told, “That is not the faith of our church,” and were expelled from membership. One woman was told, “Have a relationship with man to cure yourself”—a clear example of sexual harassment; and a man being forced to marry a woman was told, “If you get married you will be cured.”


Some people just had no place to go. People thought they were being kind by saying things like, “I’ll introduce you to a person of the opposite sex with whom you can build a relationship,” but that made it difficult for some people to continue going to the same church. The words from the Bible, “Be fruitful and multiply,” were spoken as a blessing but also made it difficult for some people—and not only LGBT people—to continue going to the same church. Many left the church after experiencing pressure by being told, “We will pray that you will be cured.” One pastor said, “We will openly welcome LGBT people to our church,” while not being aware that at least two LGBT people were already there. Saying “we will welcome you if you come” reveals an unawareness of the fact that LGBT people may already be there. From a bisexual person, I heard with pain that the leader of the church spoke ill of such a person for being totally immoral. From now on, let us think together and let us know and experience that God loves us all just as we are.(Tr. RW)


1. “LGBT” is an abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. It is also used as an umbrella term that refers to people who have diverse sexuality and gender identities. Sometimes Q is added and it stands for “questioning,” representing people who are still exploring their sexual orientations or gender identities.


2. “Gender” refers not only to biological sex but also to socially constructed differences (gestures, hairstyle, clothing, language, and gender roles) that separate male and female. The term is also used more broadly to denote a range of identities that do not correspond to established ideas of male and female.


3. “Sexuality” is a broad term that may include biological sex, sexual orientation, sexual activity, gender expression, and gender identity.  It is also used to express a way of being true to oneself in terms of sexuality.


4. “Gender Identity” is a personal sense of one’s own gender. It can correlate with assigned sex at birth or can differ from it. Some people understand “gender identity” as  “mental sexual identification” (in contrast to physical sex) but it is not accurate expression because there is no “gender” in our spirit itself.


5. “Lesbian” refers to women whose primary sexual orientation is toward people of the same gender. Today, some people use this term not only to indicate their sexual orientation but also to verbalize the fact that they are oppressed as a woman and a homosexual person.


6. “Gay” refers to men whose primary sexual orientation is toward people of the same gender. This term was originally used to mean “bright and showy.” It is sometimes used as a synonym of “homosexual people” including lesbian.


7. “Bisexual” refers to a person whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same and other genders, or towards people regardless of their gender (pansexual).


8. “Transgender” refers to someone whose gender identity or expression does not fit assigned sex and gender. The term “gender identity disorder” is often used to describe this condition as an illness. The opposite of transgender is “cisgender.”


9. “Asexual” refers to a person who feels no sexual attraction to a person of any gender.


10. “X-gender” refers to a person who recognizes oneself as neither male nor female. X-gender people will express their feelings in a variety of ways, saying: “I am neither male nor female”; “Either is OK”;  “I am between female and male”; and “I experience changes.” This term is thought to be coined in Japan. In English, the terms “non-binary” and “third gender” may be used to express “X-gender.”


11. “Sexual Orientation” refers to a person’s physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction towards other people. It could be homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual or asexual. It is not something one can choose freely.


12. “Coming out” or “coming out of the closet” refers to the act of voluntarily making public one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity. For many LGBT people, the purpose of their “coming out” is  not to expose their secret but to share it with others in order to build a new relationship. The opposite of coming out is “staying in the closet.” (Tr. KM)


From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), April 2019


教団出版局の「信徒の友」誌上で「LGBT(*1)から学ぶ シリーズ  性 その多様性にみる神の愛」という連載が始まった。その第一回を紹介する。(KNL編集部)













 居場所を失った人たちもいます。「いい人(異性の交際相手)を紹介しますよ」という「親切心」によって、その教会に行きづらくなったという人もいます。産めよ増やせよという聖書の言葉が無批判に祝福として語られたために、教会に行けなくなった人もいます(これはLGBTだけでなく多くの人を傷つけています)。 「治るように祈る」という圧力をかけられて教会に行けなくなった人を何人も知っています。ある牧師は「LGBTの人がうちの教会に来たら丁寧に受け入れたいです」と言ってくれましたが、すでにその教会には当事者が少なくとも2人いることを私は知っていました。「来たら受け入れる」という姿勢は、「すでにいるかもしれない」という意識を薄れさせます。バイセクシュアルの人からは「教会のリーダーに、ふしだらだとののしられた」という嘆きを聞いたことがあります。これから共に考え、「ありのままの私」を愛してくださる神の愛を体感していきましょう。



2  ジェンダー


3  セクシュアリティ


4  性自認


5  レズビアン


6   ゲイ


7   バイセクシュアル


8   トランスジェンター


9   アセクシュアル


10  Xジェンダー


11  性的指向


12  カミングアウト


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