On March 9th, as many as three hundred participants gathered at First Diet Members’ Office Building to attend “Rainbow Diet”, a gathering that asks for enactment of a law aimed at achieving better understanding of LGBTs among the public and prohibiting LGBT discrimination. The gathering was filled with excitement. Twelve Diet members from “LGBT all-party parliamentary group,” Shigeaki Saegusa (a composer), Kazuyo Katsuma(an economic analyst), and personnels from Japan Business Federation and U.N made a speech respectively. LGBT participants appealed the importance of the law and a jurist gave a briefing on the law. (There was supposed to be a time for Q&A, but time was running out.)
“I always felt like I was trapped in a man’s body. My school teachers often talked badly about me and I started skipping school. I even hurt myself again and again. But I met people who understand me and they got me the courage to openly come out. I am happy now.”
Keito Asakura, a Male to Female(MtF) transgender singer, talked about her past as a transgender kid.
Maika Muroi, a co-representative of a LGBT group, “Calling for Revisions to Textbooks That Harm LGBT Youth,” talked about her experience. “This year, the national school curriculum guidelines will be revised. My group has been working together so that the next guidelines will include LGBT kids to school environments. I fell in love with a girl for the first time when I was thirteen years old. But I was very shocked when I read my textbook that said ‘everyone gets attracted to the opposite sex.’ I started to think I was wrong. More than ten years passed, but nothing has changed since then. There are still many children out there who are denied their sexuality and gender identity at school. My mission is to create an inclusive environment for LGBT kids and I hope they will safely grow up and become a person who can embrace themselves as who they are.”
Itsuki Toki, a MtF transgender high school teacher, talked about her anxiety about sex- change operations. “I have held networking events for transgender kids for ten years in Kyoto. Today I came here to raise my voice. I hate to tell transgender children that they can not have a child if they want to have a sex- change operation in the future. If they have a child, they will not be allowed to have the operation until their child becomes twenty years old. I don’t want to hear them saying their dream is to have a sex-change operation in the future. Current laws limit their life choices.I want the Japanese government to understand how serious this issue is and change the law so that transgender people with a child can have a sex-change operation. ”
Masakazu Yanagisawa, an openly gay business person at Deutsch Securities Inc, who is know for his active role in the non profitable organization, “Goodagingyells,” commented on this matter. “Appropriate legal systems haven’t been established yet despite the fact that many LGBTs work in business scenes in Japan. Lesbian families who are raising kids or transgender people who are forced to use bathrooms that match their birth gender. There is no discussion at the governmental level regarding LGBT rights and that keeps the Japanese business scenes in a state of confusion. I hope Japanese society will be a good society for LGBT people as soon as possible.”
At last, experts on LGBT issues made a speech.
Hidehiro Suzuki, an associate professor at Nihon University, emphasized the importance of a law that bans LGBT discrimination to avoid further child abuse and buying toward LGBT kids. “LGBT people, their families and friends are also suffering. How many more times should we tell them our devastating stories to make ourselves heard? ” He raised his voice.
“LGBT discrimination needs to be banned! A law that aims to promote understanding of LGBTs is not enough.” Shinobu Naito, from the Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training (JILPT), emphasized the importance of a law that bans LGBT discrimination with punishment.(A bill that aims to promote understating of LGBTs had been presented by the Japanese government out of the blue. It is different from the bill presented by “LGBT all- party parliamentary group” that aims to ban LGBT discrimination. The government’s bill aims to achieve “a society in no need of coming out” without punishment for breaking the law.)
“Rainbow Diet” was held by “LGBT all-party parliamentary group,” Amnesty Japan, law experts and Gon Matsunaka, the representative of “Goodagingyells.”
“That could have been me.” Mr. Matsunaka recalled the tragic incident that happened at Hitotsubashi University last September. A gay low school student committed a suicide after his friend outing the student’s sexuality without consent. Mr. Matsunaka started feeling stronger that something had to be done to stop discrimination and violence and change the status quo facing LGBT people at work and at school. He started a signature-collecting campaign that asked for enactment of a law that bans LGBT discrimination and which achieves a society with diversity. And this time, he took an initiative in launching the committee for “Rainbow Diet.” The first “Rainbow Diet” was held last November. This time, the gathering was filled with many participants and experts who care about LGBT rights. The committee successfully appealed the importance of anti-LGBT discrimination law to Diet members by sharing their opinions and personal stories. (The gathering was a phenomenal success. A normal lobbying can never attract that many people who have power to make changes in Japan.)
The committee is planning the next “Rainbow Diet.”