A Male Idol Just Came Out As Gay At His Fan Meeting

He is a member of a legacy boy group.

Being an idol often means sharing a close relationship with fans, more than your usual singer-fan dynamic. And while this unique equation can be rewarding, it also comes with its restrictions. One of the general rules of this relationship is that an idol’s personal life and relationships are kept out of the fans’ reach, because it can have lasting effects on the former’s career and public image.

So, when J-Pop idol Shinjiro Atae shared a deep personal truth with his fans during a fan meet recently, the world was taken aback.

Shinjiro Atae | @shinjiroatae1126/Instagram

Apart from being a well-known soloist, Atae is also popular as a member of the chart-topping legacy Japanese group AAA. The singer was attending a fan meet event at Line Cube Shibuya in Tokyo on July 26 when he addressed an audience of over 2,000 fans with a moving speech. “I am a gay man,” Atae revealed as he choked up, and his fans responded with boisterous applause, reaffirming their love for their idol.

An old photo of AAA at one of their dome concerts | @shinjiroatae1126/Instagram
Atae at his recent fan meet | @shinjiroatae1126/Instagram

The 34-year-old singer also unveiled a new song, “Into the Light,” to celebrate the milestone moment. Later, in an Instagram post, he thanked fans for the “overwhelming amount of positive feedback” to the news and shared that a portion of the profits made from his new song will be donated to Pride House Tokyo, the first LGBTQ+ center in Japan, and ReBit, an organization that supports LGBTQ+ youth.

In his 18-year-long career, Atae has achieved many impressive feats, including No.1 albums in Japan, along with three No.1 singles. He is one of the first API idols of this caliber to come out publicly, which has given people hope for more inclusivity in similar industries. His announcement is also significant specifically in Japan’s domestic political context. Advocates in the country are currently pushing for stronger pro-LGBTQ+ legislation as Japan is the only Group of Seven (G7) nation with no legal protection for same-sex unions.

LGBTQ+ activists holding up “P7” logos of a civil engagement group, founded to make pro-LGBTQ+ policy proposals in Japan | AP

Talking about the struggles he faced to accept his truth, the singer said that it took him a long time to even admit the truth to himself. He was anxious about how it might affect his acceptance as an artist.

It has taken me a long time to be able to say I am gay. I could not even say it to myself. I feared that even if I could accept the truth, the world would never accept me as an artist. However, I’ve come to realize it is better, both for me, and for the people I care about, including my fans, to live life authentically than to live a life never accepting who I truly am. I hope people who are struggling with the same feeling will find courage and know they are not alone.

— Shinjiro Atae

This is, however, not the first time Atae has advocated for social issues close to his personal life. In 2022, he released a book Every Life Is Correct, But Incorrrect, dealing with the issue of mental health in Japan. The book quickly became a best seller in the country and the singer gained significant praise for his honest writing.

Shinjiro Atae at a lecture, talking about his book | avex.com

Now, with his courageous move of publicly living his truth as a gay man, Atae has quickly become the face of positive LGBTQ+ representation in Japan. The singer hopes that his story will encourage and empower others like him to embrace their true selves.