Nonke is one of the many words commonly used in the Boys’ Love genre that originated from Japanese gay community lingo. The word itself is used initially to refer to straight people. However, within the BL genre, the term has been used in an increasingly far broader context.
“Nonke” is commonly written in katakana characters as ノンケ, which is derived from the word ノン (“non,” as in the English prefix implying negation), and ケ (“ke,” derived from the character 気 which can be read as “ke” and can be translated as “air, mood, atmosphere, or feelings”). The word itself has a fairly straightforward meaning as the gay and lesbian community uses it to refer to people whose appearance or behaviors indicate that they’re not gay.
As with a lot of jargon coming from the gay community in Japan, nonke was already used in the first gay magazine publication, Barazoku, during the mid-1970s. The word was commonly used among gay and lesbians to describe heterosexual people from their perspective. However, within the gay community, when a nonke person sleeps with the same sex and afterward discovers their sexuality, then the person is not a nonke, but merely a person who didn’t realize that they’re actually gay.
However, within the BL genre, the word nonke is more often used for stories depicting characters who are not originally gay but then fall in love or sleep with someone of the same sex. BL stories depicting sexual awakenings ー characters realizing that even if they might not be gay, they can still fall in love with a particular man ー have been one of the popular tropes in the BL genre for a long time. As the subgenre of BL grew, nonke became one of the words often used for categorization or marketing purposes by publishers.
Nonke: Modern Usage
To this day, nonke has become quite a common word used by both the gay community and the general population. This is perhaps one reason why publishers still use the term.
There have also been debates within the BL fan community on the almost too-flexible ways nonke is used for various contexts. For example, when a BL story depicts a couple who are both nonke, should the characters still be called nonke since they are definitely not straight? As with other words and phrases within the BL community, the word nonke is also continually transforming through the community’s discussions and usage.
About futekiya: BL manga subscription
In 2018, futekiya began as a Boys’ Love manga news and culture website operated by FANTASISTA, INC., a CG/VR production studio based in Tokyo, Japan. futekiya transformed into a budding global distributor of officially licensed BL manga in 2019.
futekiya launched as an online subscription service for officially licensed BL manga on July 8, 2019. Determined to connect fans around the world with English-translated BL legally and conveniently, futekiya empowers readers to support creators and the manga industry.
Readers who subscribe to futekiya and pay a flat monthly fee of $6.99 will have access to our expanding library of English-language manga. To subscribe, please go to read.futekiya.com and create an account. More information is in our Guide.