Transphobes in Japan: A Crappy Dating App Story

UPDATE: As of October 2023, a large part of this article got wiped out by the Japanese Supreme Court; transgender people no longer need sterilization to change their legal ID. I’m glad that one of my main complaints is gone. LGBTQ+ awareness in Japan has markedly improved just in the last few years since I posted this, and that makes me very happy.

The original post is below:

I’m increasingly angry about Transphobes in Japan. Obviously, transphobes are the worst thing ever in general–especially ones that are also LGBTQ+ themselves. Ultra-conservative queer maniacs who are basically the gay equivalent of QAnon cultists. In Japan, it’s an all-pervasive toxin on LGBTQ+ culture that somehow refuses to die.

Japan is the only remaining country in the G7 without same-sex marriage and with some positively barbaric laws regarding transgender people–you have to be sterilized and you can’t have any children–no developed country has such terrible rules. It sucks. But, it’s improving rapidly, even just in the years I’ve lived here. I’m hopeful these things will change. Especially the transphobes in Japan part.

transphobes in japan
Enjoy this fun picture from Aomori Rainbow Parade in June 2022. I am a professional photographer

If you’ve heard of transphobic queer people in Japan, you’ve probably heard of the bar Goldfinger. It’s the most famous lesbian bar in Shinjuku’s Nichome, the “gay mecca” of Japan. And it’s got Saturday night “Women Only” events. That in itself is perfectly fine. A nice safe space for women who love women to party and drink and maybe make out.

But in 2019, Goldfinger got caught refusing entry to a transgender woman. One with an F gender marker on her ID, if that matters to you. It caused massive uproar in the community, especially with expats, but the owners only doubled down. Made it “passing only” which is an affront to human decency. “If you aren’t pretty enough you get kicked out.” No wonder there aren’t enough butch women in Japan… They just get accused of being men…

Nice video rant on the subject

In the three years since, as far as I’ve found, no policies have changed. Goldfinger still bans “nonp-passing” transgender women (and presumably cisgender women honestly) from entering on Saturdays. But it’s been swept under the rug, just this cute quirk about a very popular bar nobody remembers. It appears to be outright fucking illegal, yet the lawsuits ain’t coming.

This isn’t some necessary thing they need to do. A safe space for women doesn’t need to exclude, and I know plenty of lesbian bars in Japan that explicitly allow transgender and nonbinary people. They HAVE to write it on their websites because of places like Goldfinger.


And that brings me to an even more egregious, blatantly evil example of transphobes in Japan seeping into unexpected places.

Back in 2021, I was extremely lonely and sad and got in yet another phase of “desperately using dating apps for friends and romance.” Being in a small town with all my friends gone back home due to Covid, I was in a quite bad place, so I tried my best.

It didn’t work. Certainly not for finding LGBTQ+ friends. I went browsing around Google Play one day just to see what was there, and… Lo and behold, I found an app called PIAMY that promised to deliver exactly what I needed… A place for women, nonbinary, and transgender people to connect, make friends, and go on dates. I could finally make some actual friends, maybe!


transphobes in japan
Wow, you can talk about many topics!
TERFs in Japan
Wow, all the different sexualities and genders!

According to PIAMY’s poorly translated app description:

Piermy is a fully pre-approved sympathetic SNS app [Social Network] that allows lesbians, A-sek [Asexual], X-gender [Nonbinary], etc., to connect and meet with Sekmai-san [Sexual Minority] and women with peace of mind.

The concept is “knowing that person’s personality and connecting with empathy.”
This is an SNS where you can meet Reiwa for sexual minorities, developed by the LGBTQ team in Japan, in order to deliver more encounters to sexual minorities such as lesbians.
The long-awaited release of the app, which has been a hot topic on Twitter even before its release, in March 2021!

Their motto on the website is 「女性の力で、セクマイの力で、新しいマーケットができる」, which roughly translates to “With the power of women and sexual minorities, we can make a new market.”

Wow! An app that openly markets itself to queer people beyond just gay or lesbian! An app that’s not just about hook-ups! Gosh! It even allows FTM guys, which is kind of weird for a women-centric app, but I get it because FTMs have been traditionally part of the community and it’s a really complicated thing.

But then there’s that tiny little note you can only find if you scroll way down:

Piermy can be used by anyone who is a “female on the family register”.

They do ID verification to make sure you’re listed with that 女 before you can even register.

“Family register” is basically the Japanese equivalent to birth certificate, and something you can only change with forced sterilization and surgery and lots of grueling medical diagnoses. So, most importantly, this excludes almost all transgender women and nonbinary people.

It is notably NOT excluding FTMs, though, as I said. MTFs are banned on the women app, but FTMs are alright.

So it’s basically saying, trans guys, you’re *actually* women, so feel free to drop by. Am I wrong to think this? Isn’t that the exact feeling y’all get from this?

I emailed them for clarification because I was so baffled by it, and the response they gave boiled down to, “We don’t want creepy men to join the app, so, sorry, trans women are excluded if their ID isn’t changed. We’d love to fix it in the future but it’s such a big IT challenge.”

The creepy men part, I totally get. Horny straight men ruin everything. But come the fuck on. This app has like, ten thousand downloads. Right now I’m kicking a dead app while it’s on the ground, but if creepy men invade your app, you need better moderation systems, not just discrimninating against an entire people group. Apps like Tinder and are MUCH bigger and, guess what, you can explore WLW spaces without much fear of creepy dudes in disguise! (Although, I will admit, they do pop up every now and then. It’s very annoying.)

It’s transphobes in Japan using “safety” as a paper-thin excuse to exclude the likely hundreds of thousands of transgender women in Japan who haven’t undergone the barbaric gender change process. Fuck that.

A few months later, I wrote a review to try and warn people away, and it received a response… Which was basically the exact same thing as my email response. My laziest translation possible:

Thanks for reviewing. This app is for people with women on their IDs. At the moment, people who are legally male can’t use this. Sorry, it’s because of the family register system and we can’t fix that. In the future, we’ll try to clear up these techncial problems. Please read the notes in the link and whatever.

-Hire me to translate your Japanese novel into English

Nothing changed, not even the rhetoric of “it’s just a technical problem lolz.”

If it was a technical issue, you’d have solved it by now. It’s shameful to hide behind that and disguise your real intentions.

PIAMY is a very unsuccessful app that, as far as I can tell, was abandoned by its creator. With 10,000 downloads in almost 2 years, I can’t imagine there’s any active users anymore, right? An Android-only app in a country dominated by iPhones, too….

Only problem? Its creator is JobRainbow, legitimately a big deal in LGBTQ+ stuff in Japan.

According to the PIAMY app description, JobRainbow describes itself as such:

Job Rainbow Co., Ltd., which operates Japan’s largest LGBT job information site “Job Rainbow”.

We also provide training to convey the basic knowledge of LGBT and the dangers of outing to more than 500 companies, including some listed companies.
Rest assured that a team led by LGBT parties will protect your personal information.

We would appreciate your cooperation in creating a safe and secure community together.

They conduct JOB TRAINING and they’re discriminating against transgender people. JOB TRAINING TO OVER 500 COMPANIES.

Time and time again, I see JobRainbow touted as this super important, super helpful organization that does a lot of good work for the LGBTQ+ community in Japan. And as far as I’m aware, *they’re right.* It’s an important organization! But they’re also, effectively, an entire company of transphobic queer people in Japan by creating PIAMY and refusing to fix its massive glaring discrimination problem.

To JobRainbow:

Yeah, you, JobRainbow. I know people in your company are reading this article right now. So listen up.

Your actions violate the basic principles of decency, and you are making the queer community a worse place with your discrimninatory acts. Issue an apology. Fix the issues immediately. Or take down the damn app if you’re not going to fix it. Doing nothing makes you complicit in the hateful ideology spouted by TERFs every day.

You came SO CLOSE to creating a good community for LGBTQ+ people in Japan. So close to making a safe space for women and sexual minorities. But you made two crippling mistakes. First, you didn’t put the app on iPhone. Second, you went full Evil Villain and excluded people for “technical reasons.”

Places like Goldfinger and PIAMY make the LGBTQ+ community in Japan such a dangerous place for transgender people. When safe spaces aren’t even safe, where can they go? Nowhere. What kind of community does that to its own people?

Let’s fight for our civil rights. Let’s make the world a BETTER place. Not increase the pain and suffering that people already have to endure on a daily basis in their daily lives.

Rant over. Let’s kick out all the transphobes in Japan. Or get them to stop being so hateful. Either one is fine.

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2 thoughts on “Transphobes in Japan: A Crappy Dating App Story

  1. A shame these sorts of roadblocks are still in place. How much of it is the system itself hardline not allowing companies like this to actually do the right thing, and how much of this are these companies just hiding behind bureaucracy because they don’t want to be the one who rocks the boat?

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