AERA, one of the most popular weekly magazines in Japan, features LGBT this month. The magazine picked LGBT as the cover story two years ago, putting a rainbow decoration on its logo and Tiffany’s advertisement with a couple of gay models on it. This time, the cover story has a richer content than the last one.
One thing which is very different from other LGBT featured magazines is that AERA does not blindly believe today’s LGBT-friendly trend, spurred by big companies in Japan. The cover story begins with the title, “Illusion of LGBT trend. What’s behind the shiny rainbow? What we miss behind the LGBT-friendly movement?”
It’s 19 pages long, so let me briefly summarize the cover story for you.
It starts with a talk with Mineko Noumachi and Samson Takahashi. Noumachi Mineko is known as a male- to-female(MtF) transgender TV-talent and Samson Takahashi is known for his non-fiction travel diary comic, “Gay Round-the-World-Trip.” The talk, “We’re about to get married (for now),” reveals the fact that the two has decided to be in a relationship to get married someday (You are very surprised now. I know!). What made them decide to do so and what they have learned from the experience are the key topics. They share ideas on what being married means, which is very interesting.
In the talk titled, “The reasons why only queers appear on TV,” Mitz Mangrove, Carrousel Maki, and Kaba- chan talked about how Japanese media deal with LGBT people. KABA-chan says that she is often told that she’s losing her place in the television industry after her sex-change surgery. Mitz Mangrove pointed out that Japanese television industry is still a “man’s world” and they want “queers” to be someone funny and someone they can look down on at the same time.
In the article, titled “Political Diversity,” the writer points out the fact that the number of the conservatives is on the rise in the gay communities in spite of the political image of LGBT community. For example, the number of the supporters of right-wing politicians who uphold anti-immigrant policies is on the rise in France. AERA conducts researches on the reasons why more LGBT people have started supporting the political parties that uphold anti-gay marriage policies.
The article I find significant among all is “Friendliness is over the rainbow. The truth about local municipalities.” AERA conducted a survey questionnaire among one hundred four local municipalities. As a result, only one of them answers that they want to introduce same-sex partnerships. Eleven of them answer that they want to introduce same-sex partnerships if requested.(I found a few rude answers and comments, too). The survey asked questions such as “Do you support same-sex marriage?” “Do you think measures need to be taken for transgender people at schools and workplaces? ” “Do you publicly show support for LGBT people and their community?” “Does your city/ municipality allow same-sex couples to live together in public housing?” “Are there any ongoing measures for LGBT people and their community?”, etc. The result shows their passive attitudes towards officially supporting LGBT people and their community. Japan is yet to be LGBT-friendly.
The latter half of the article focuses on discriminatory systems of Japanese hotels. For example, seventy five hotels, which is about the half of hotels in Toshima Ward, object to offering services to gay couples. It is clear that those hotels are in breach of Inns and Hotels Acts and administrative guidance was given to them. However, twenty eight of them still deny services to gay couples. Some of them claim that they charge twice as much when a gay couple comes.
“LGBT people are not asking for special treatment at all. We are simply asking for equal access to public places without fear and stress. The status quo is very bad. We need to start from teaching people what’s rude and what’s not. People working in the hotel industry and the travel business need to be educated,” said Shintaro Koizumi, the representative of OUTJAPAN.
In the interview article titled “More than half of elementary and junior high school teachers know nothing about LGBT,” the writer reveals the harsh reality facing LGBT people in the countryside. “Lack of education is behind this problem,” said Kasumi Nakamura, gender and sexuality researcher at Keio University. You can read the interview with Tomoya Hosoda, the first FtM transgender city councilor elected in Japan.
In the article entitled “Same-sex Parenting,” you can read the interview with a lesbian couple who has given birth to their own child respectively with the help of sperm donation. The couple raises their children together. The couple shares their childbirth story. They were often rejected by their doctor because the doctor believed it was “ethically wrong.” Even after the childbirth, they face troubles on a daily basis. When they took their child to the hospital, the hospital staff told them to “come here with his/her real mom.” Same-sex parenting is still unaccepted and the awareness of same-sex parenting needs to be raised in Japan.
In the last article entitled, “How should we get old? No role models for the retirement life for LGBTs,” the writer openly comes out as gay and shares his story of the relationship with his partner’s parents. His partner committed a suicide after years of pressure from his parents who were constantly trying to make him get married. After his death, his parents did not allow him to attend his funeral and see his grave. That incident got him speechless. In the article, he ponders on why so many people still think gay life is “shameful.” His story is worth reading.
Since the 1990s, the number of openly gay people has been on the rise, but what they started facing is the problem of “aging.” In Japan, we do not have any gay role models that we can look up to. Everybody is in the process of finding out what is best for them after the retirement. The number of gay people who commit a suicide has also been on the rise due to the depression that comes from the anxiety.
Hiroshi Hasegawa, the most well-known openly HIV positive gay rights activist that has worked for the LGBT community since 1990s, is under treatment of dialysis, but he was rejected by a number of hospitals because of his HIV status. He thought he was going to die. After calling as many hospitals as possible, he found one hospital that could accept him. However, on the very day when he planned to go to the hospital, he became unconscious because of internal breeding. The superintendent found him and called an ambulance right away. He managed to recover, but he lost his right leg and now he lives with a wheelchair. “I want people to learn from my experience. But I want to tell them that it’s okay to screw things up. You will be fine like me somehow,” said Mr. Hasegawa.