Hikaru Utada shares world-altering moment they found the words to describe themself

Pop superstar Hikaru Utada

Pop superstar Hikaru Utada has opened up about the joy they felt in finding the words to describe their gender.

The Japanese-American singer-songwriter, who came out as non-binary in June 2021, made the comments while speaking about their new album, Bad Mode, in an interview with Zane Lowe.

“When I came across the term non-binary for the first time, which was, I guess, a few years ago, it wasn’t a question of, ‘Am I, or am I not?'” Utada said.

“It was like, ‘Whoa! Where was this word my whole life? Hello! We finally meet.”

She continued: “It was like a gift. The knowledge of just knowing that, it was very… It was such a validating moment. I didn’t even realise how much I had needed the term.”

Utada rose to fame after the release of their debut album First Love in 1999 which was a massive commercial success.

In the decades since, the R&B and pop singer has released several chart-topping albums, and she also recorded four theme songs for the internationally popular Kingdom Hearts video game franchise.

Hikaru Utada went on to explain that gender and sexuality are misunderstood in Japan due to not often being discussed, and there’s a lack of visible LGBT+ role models. An exception to this is trans footballer Kumi Yokoyama, who came out publicly as a trans man in 2021, making them the most high-profile athlete in Japan to do so.

“There were people writing to me saying they’re scared, not necessarily about being trans or non-binary, but just about identity in general,” Utada explained.

“They’re scared to be who they are, or they don’t know who they are anymore because they’ve lived their whole lives trying to be liked by other people. People are scared of losing the support and love of their families or losing their jobs and things like that.”

While awareness of LGBT+ identities is growing in Japan, the LGBT+ community lacks legal protections.

Currently, Japan’s constitution defines marriage as based on the “mutual consent of both sexes”. But a landmark ruling last year said that blocking same-sex marriage is “unconstitutional”.

Trans people in Japan must undergo gender-affirming surgery and be sterilised to have their gender legally recognised on official documents – a requirement that human rights and LGBT+ groups have criticised for being archaic and discriminatory.