Critics: Japanese Dictionary Bungled Definition Of “LGBT”

The Kojien dictionary is a household reference throughout Japan.

A Japanese publisher is considering revising its new dictionary after complaints about the definition for “LGBT.”

The seventh edition of the Kojien dictionary, released on January 12, is the first new one in ten years. It’s also the first to include “LGBT,” which it defines as “People with sexual orientations that are different from those of the majority.”

Iwanami Shoten

But critics say that ignores transgender, which refers to gender identity, not sexuality.

“As Kojien in particular is highly influential, I want the dictionary to describe the term carefully based on experts’ opinions,” says Takeyoshi Iwamoto, a professor at Kanazawa University

In a blog post, trans advocate Mameta Endo said the mistake reflects the perceptions of most of Japanese society, where many are still uninformed about sexual minorities.

““It’s a pity really… It would pose a problem if the inaccurate definition is spread by being quoted from the dictionary,” he wrote. “I hope the publisher will make a correction.”

A rep from publisher Iwanami Shoten says the Tokyo-based company is aware of the situation.

“We are looking into the issue within our company, including whether to rectify the part and how to do it.”

First published in 1955, the Kojien dictionary has a become a household reference in Japan, frequently considered the final arbiter by media outlets and other organizations. “LGBT” was among some 10,000 entries added into the seventh edition.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.