Japanese Transgender Idol Unit “SECRET GUYZ” Overcome Gender Boundaries

SECRET GUYZ, Japan’s first-ever FtM idol group, is broadening the scope of its activities to spread understanding of sexual minorities as it cements its position as a ‘new generation idol group”. In addition to releasing their 6th single on November 30th, the group will hold a one-man show on December 1st in Toyko. The group says, “Rather than raising awareness in a serious way, we want to get the word out through entertainment.”

SECRET GUYZ consists of members Yoshihara Shuto, Yukichi, and Ikeda Taiki.  Shuto came up with the idea to form the group. At the time, he was an actor performing in stage productions. Rather than hiding the fact that he is transgender, he began to imagine if he could instead find strength in it.

Shuto: The entertainment company pointed out that I wouldn’t have as much of an impact if I went at it alone. So I approached Taiki, an acquaintance, and Yukichi, a member of the entertainment agency Yoshimoto Kougyou. This was in the summer of 2013.

Yukichi: I had to teach myself to dance. After months of practicing to sing and dance, we stood on stage for the first time in winter that year. There was a feeling like “who are they?”. Barely anyone attended.

Shuto: We didn’t have many songs back then. We sang two covers over twenty minutes and then just talked. The show ended up becoming something like a comedy trio…

Taiki: I wanted to grow our fanbase, so I thought we should try to include as much entertainment as possible during our shows. That included talking segments.

The group decided that their main priority should be to use their identities as transgender men as a way to create understanding of LGBT individuals. They would let people know that despite their handsome looks, they originally lived as females, and that from a young age, being classified by their gender felt strange.

Taiki: I was a mischievous child and did things like throwing rocks. My parents told me to ‘be more lady like’, and it was like, ‘who are you talking to?’. At the time, I still didn’t understand the difference between gender.

Yukichi: An easily recognizable way genders are separated are with colors. I thought it was weird that I had to have certain color for something (for example, a red backpack for girls).

Shuto: When I was given a red backpack, I thought, ‘why does it have to be red?’. I thought that if I got it dirty enough, I could get a new one, so I spilled india ink on it and let it get ragged. My mom told me I had to keep using it. I ended up using it though sixth grade. <laughs> Rather that being uncomfortable with my gender, it felt strange that things like backpacks, school uniforms, and bathing suits were separated by gender.

The three of them came out to their families and entered the entertainment world. While the purpose of the group is to spread understanding of LGBT in Japan, they do not intend to to so by appealing in a serious manner. As idols, they would like to appeal in a lighthearted way.

Taiki: At first, I thought it was enough to just present ourselves as three unique individuals and not put so much emphasis on creating awareness. I thought it was fine to leave that matter in the background. However, around two years ago, LGBT stories got picked up by the media, and we might not have made it if not for that. Because we are idols, we though that we could use our position as entertainers as a gateway to creating understanding.

Yukichi: We’ll leave the other societal aspects (of LGBT rights and such) to other organizations and individuals. And we’ll keep working our angle in our own way.

This way is through using song and dance to deliver sensational performances. The group’s level of recognition continues to rise. SECRET GUYZ has taken the stage over 200 times this year, and and their 5th single, released in May, made 7th place in the ORICON Weekly Top 10 ranking. Despite this level of response, firmly rooted prejudice continues to makes things difficult for the group.

Shuto: Many people still hesitate to come to our performances just because we are transgender. I think we still haven’t made that much of an impact.

Taiki: Our fans are 90% female and 10% male, but there aren’t any LGBT individuals like us. (LGBT individuals) say things like ‘I want to stay hidden’ or ‘I don’t want to talk about it openly’. That’s something that we would like to share with people though the medium of entertainment. I wonder why they don’t come and support us. We would be so happy if they did.

Yukichi: They say that the number of LGBT people is only about the same as the number of left-handed people, but we really would like them to come and support us. We have all come from the same difficult background, so (all LGBT people) ought to come together to change things. We can’t make change through our own strength alone. We should all persevere together and serve as role models for children who want to come out.

On November 30th, their 6th single,「OH,MY GiRL!??夏をあきらめて。冷やし中華終わりました?」will be released. On December 1st, they will have a one man show in Tokyo. They want to continue to create awareness of transgender individuals in the same vein as Haruna Ai (44) and KABA-chan (47) have. And they have their eyes set on performing at the Ryougoku Sumo Hall. (※Note: The hall is used for sumo, boxing, wresting, and concerts).

Shuto: Women are traditionally prohibited from entering the spaces of sumo wrestlers. Our goal is to intentionally set foot in that place. Our performance on December 1st is part of the road towards that goal. It would be great if we could create a show where gender doesn’t matter, and where we could send people home thinking “That was a lot of fun, I want to see them again”.

SECRET GUYZ will continue to work together as the first FtM idol group.

Source → 元女性ユニット「SECRET GUYZ」性の壁飛び越えて…夢は国技館公演

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