Okinawa City Council of Social Welfare to open the first consultation center for LGBT people in Okinawa.

According to The Ryukyu Shimpo, Okinawa City Council of Social Welfare opened a consultation center for LGBT people in its building on January 5th. This center is the first consultation center for LGBT people in Okinawa. The city councils of social welfare in Tokyo and Osaka City have made leaflets and support programs for LGBT people, but the center in Okinawa City is the only consultation center for LGBT people in Japan.

Teishiro Minami, one of the greatest gay rights activists in Japan, will supervise the center as a consultant. Mr. Minami, who lives in Uruma City in Okinawa now, was the chief editor of Japanese gay magazines, “Adon” and “MLMW,” and the chief representative of the Japanese branch of ILGA. He was also the pioneer of HIV telephone consultation in Japan. He successfully held the first gay parade and LGBT film festival in Japan in the 1980s and 1990s. He will serve as a consultant on 2nd Thursday every month.

People can talk about anything such as gender dysphoria, sexuality, and STDs such as HIV. Not only can LGBT people see a consultant, but their family members can also use the consultation services. All the information provided during consultation is strictly confidential and people can safely talk about their issues with Mr. Minami both in person and on the phone.

The idea of opening the consultation center came to Kenji Uehara, the department chief of Okinawa City Council of Community Social Welfare, when Mr.Minami came to his radio show and talked about his activities for LGBT people in Japan. After the show, Mr. Uehara asked Mr. Minami to serve as a consultant in the center.

On January 5th, the opening ceremony took place. “I hope this consultation center will successfully serve as a part of support programs and help those LGBT people living out there with inconvenience.” Shizue Seki, the president of Okinawa City Council of Social Welfare, said in his speech. “I would like to think about our lifestyles as LGBT together through the counseling and consultation services.” Mr.Minami said passionately.

The Ryukyu Shimpo published an interview article of Mr.Minami on January 15th. “Everything has changed. When I was young, people usually got angry and said ‘I don’t wanna hang out with you any more’ when someone came out to them. Now, people see and know about LGBT people, so it’s easier for us to come out. But, coming out in small local areas like Okinawa is not as easy as in Tokyo because people are more closely related and people talk more. Sometimes LGBT people are afraid of their family finding out they are LGBT when they come out to people they know. On the other hand, people in local areas are more likely to help and support LGBT people if they have better understanding. People recognize and appreciate you when you care about others and society. It doesn’t matter if you are gay or not. Your will to change can change others, too.” Mr. Minami said in the interview.

Okinawa City is the second largest city located in the middle of the main island of Okinawa. There are a few gay bars in the city and U.S. soldiers from the American base come to the bars. In 2012, local LGBT people had a rainbow parade as a part of the local festival, “Okinawa International Carnival.” It was small, but it marked the first rainbow parade held in Okinawa.