Do Japanese use special pronouns to refer to minority genders?
Do any Japanese refer to themselves with different pronouns depending on whether at any moment in time they are identifying with one gender or another?
Here in Europe I am not aware of this phenomenon in any of the languages I speak. In fact I haven’t yet experienced it in the UK either.
I’m curious to hear your experience.
You rarely have to use pronouns to refer to others in Japanese, and the most common options are gender neutral, the same goes for personal pronouns.
I saw this post and thought it would be a handy resource for those searching for some non-binary related vocab. It does not contain pronouns, but does give the words for non-binary, agender, androgyne, bigender and genderfluid. Since not all Japanese people know these words (much as how not every English person is familiar with the jargon of the LGBTQ+ community), the text also contains ways to explain your gender in a sentence.
Hope this is helpful!
I took a class on Japanese Language in Society and learned a lot about gendered speech. From what I understand pronouns in Japanese are very gendered. Hopefully this information can help answer the OP’s question.
When referring to yourself:
[Atashi - I/Me - Female] [Boku - I/Me - Male] [Watashi - I/Me - Female/Either] [Jibun - I/Me/Myself - Either]
When you refer to others:
[Kanojo - She/Her - Female] [Kare - He/Him - Male] [Ano Kata - That person - Either]
Even though these are gender specific, if you relate with one gender over the other you can use that specific pronoun that you identify with. On the other hand, people who don’t relate with a specific gender will use [Jibun]. You can also refer to others by their name if you are close with them.
Japanese tend not to use pronouns, and if you do it is usually for someone you don’t know. Due to the modern trend of introducing your own pronouns when you meet someone, it doesn’t seem like this would end up being a huge deal when speaking in Japanese, due to the fact that pronouns are used more so before you meet someone (so they’d have no idea what pronoun that person would prefer to go by).
Alternative pronouns for genders other than male/female isn’t exactly a thing in Japan yet, and is likely not really understood or discussed by a large segment of the population. Youth in large cities like Tokyo and Osaka are definitely an exception, but even among the youth homosexuality is still a bit of a taboo subject in modern Japan.
I’d say that recently created pronouns (if they exist in Japanese) are likely to be found among people who already speak English and adopted the custom from the West. That’s just my intuition, though, not really sure.
Maybe create your own pronoun such as あたしぼく
while you are correct that those words are predominently used by people identifing with those gender, those pronouns do not have this meaning per se. it is more like those pronouns hold a certain meaning connotation and people use them if them identify with the meaning of these words and the situation allows for it. i do not think its a good idea to use any of these pronouns as long as one does not understand the connotations of using them. from the post and i think generally in the non-cis community jibun is used more often. but for me it leaves quite a weird feeling to hear someone say jibun to refer to themself.
because of that i do not think its likely for japanese to create new pronouns. there are so many slang ones and outdates besides the common onces to choose from, so i think its more likely that some pronoun with be reused and or changed in meaning by usage. just a guess tho
also what @frontgammon said. you really do not need to use them at all. mostly in very formal situation it is appropriate to not omit parts of your sentences as usual, but in that case you would use watakusi anyway.
rarely when there is a misunderstanding pronouns are used as well to clear it up, but you can just as well say your own name. i feel like some misunderstanding situations always are quite uncomfortable. A) you might have to reveal your pronoun with is a tricky choice in some social situations and b) i really dislike being called anata or calling anyone anata. names are just better, use names
From what I know, Japanese people on the whole use jibun to refer to themselves frequently.
Andi was talking about this recently on Discord but I can’t tag him for some reason, maybe his user account is deleted.
Edit: oh there you are @OmukaiAndi - you are probably more familiar with this…
its not like i havent seen it, it just seems to be only used in special cases
Well I’m pointing to the fact that it should not make you feel strange, not that you have never heard it before. But that’s my fault for not explaining clearly and I was just echoing something you’ve already said.
But from what I can see (and what I see and hear a lot myself) it’s not really used in special cases, reference to this Maggie Sensei post. However, one aspect of the usage she explains is to do with distancing yourself from the listener, so I guess there will be times when 自分 could be used in a slightly malicious way.
so i read that post and its mostly matches my feeling. didnt know that they use it for second pronoun in kansai but then again i am pretty sure that when i was there i was addressed with it and it was not to strange for me to especially remember it. i think generally speaking the article is good in explaining jibun use cases. i dont think it suits to call jibun a personal pronoun like we are used to it in indo european languages. for me it simply conveys the meaning of oneself and depending on context it can mean myself, yourself, his/herself or just oneself. you could think about it as the prepositional noun, which closer defines the meaning of which selves, being omitted.
yes sure you can use jibun to address yourself and in some cases i wont find it weird, but there will be sentences where using it doesnt really fit or worse excludes the listener
自分 is fine to use, in any situation. 私 is okay, too, that’s 100% neutral and being used by everyone, depending on who they talk to.
I can imagine westerners feeling awkward with all those options. I’ve seen people write they’d never use 俺 because they feel it’s too (insert adjective), which, to me, seems really strange.
Interestingly, girls call themselves 俺 in some regions of northeast Japan
Just one caution for 自分: It’s used by everyone, but usually in contrastive context. As in, “my own,” or “specifically I, myself, did that (as opposed to someone else),” etc. There are people who use it as a general first-person pronoun, but it can seem a little pompous.
You can find some Japanese writing on struggling with pronoun choice as a non-binary or transgender person, but upon a quick lunch-hour search, I wasn’t able to find much on new pronoun-creation, and by and large Japanese speech skirts the need for it, as mentioned above. Doesn’t mean there aren’t cases or budding movements I’m not aware of.
In general though, you rarely have a need to invoke pronouns to refer to other people, unlike English, and for first-person pronouns, although there are gendered nuances, they’re also more gender-neutral than they first appear. 私 is neutral but slightly feminine leaning in private contexts, 僕 is male-leaning but actually used by cis women sometimes throughout Japan, to the point that it’s characterizing but not wildly unexpected, etc. The author of that article talks about mostly using 私, but making context calls. Even someone feminine-appearing using 俺, and even outside of the regions where it’s more standard–while it would call attention rather than avoiding it–isn’t going to shatter anyone’s worldview, and could be an option in informal contexts depending on the image you want. You can probably find something that feels right while remaining suitably neutral, though there might be emergent ones to fill in connotative niches too (ex. something as completely neutral as 私 that also doesn’t seem so distancing or slightly effeminate in personal contexts).
(Not an expert; just interesting and good to be aware of, so thanks for prompting a search. Will be interesting to see if anyone has more personal experience navigating these waters in Japan.)
@yndajas Thanks for reposting that link!
This is a thread about how (or whether) the Japanese language handles gender identity issues that affect word choice in other cultures. Your personal belief that this shouldn’t be a conversation topic isn’t helpful or relevant in any way.
No matter your gender you can use 私 and 僕. Though to be honest, the former sounds kind of stuff and is rarely used in casual circumstances. Contrary to what is often said on the internet, 僕 is used often by Japaense women and in a variety of circumstances. The most common words for refering to other people あいつ、やつ、 あなた、お前、あの人、あの子 are all non gender specific, though some of them are much ruder than others.
Hmm. First the “shocking mnemonics” thread and now here … your account was created less than 24 hours ago … seems like you created an account just to come over here and cause trouble. There are a lot better things you could be doing with your time.
Sorry for disagreeing with you. I see this as me saying what I believe and you attacking me because im not saying things you agree with. So, in the end I would give you the same message. Harassment of me will gain you nothing. I do agree that the response was a bit off-topic though, but the topic has essentially already been addressed and people are saying the same thing over and over at this point.
Disagreeing in itself is fine.
Disagreeing by insulting others or dismissing the relevance of others’ inquiries outright, leading to derail or shut down a conversation, is not fine.
Disagreeing by insulting the people in the conversation (or related to the conversation) is not fine.
Dismissing an entire group of people on the basis of the gender they identify with is not fine, whether or not you believe in the existence of the gender they identify with.
Making sweeping judgments and generalizations in response to others’ questions and opinions, especially about the people who are stating said questions and opinions, is not fine.
Please do something healthier with your time, for your own sake. Whatever pleasure you’ve been experiencing as a result of your posts is temporary, and it’s not going to keep you happy in the long run, and it’s certainly not going to earn you respect from the people you interact with regardless of what country you live in. You may find some Japanese may be as open minded as you stated in the other thread, but if you treat them or the people they know in the same manner you have been treating the members of this community with your unnecessary, provocative comments, I can guarantee you, they will quickly lose patience because they will see right through you.