Paradoxes pervade gender issues' public face in Japan

Transgender people are popping up everywhere in the current Japanese media landscape. Whether it's appearing on variety shows or hawking soft drinks or makeup in TV ads, the current crop of "new-half" celebrities have established themselves in the mainstream in a way that has surprised many onlookers.

But what does this Japanese appetite for gay and transgender stars mean culturally?

Does it point toward a growing social acceptance of sexual minorities — or is something slightly exploitative going on here? Are people tuning in for the spectacle, to have a laugh at the expense of these so-called girly men? Or could it be that both — growing acceptance and the freak-show factor — are happening at the same time?

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