On August 2nd, Mio Sugita, a junior member of the House of Representatives belonging to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, officially apologized to the public. She faced nationwide backlash after writing an article that LGBT+ people are “unproductive” insisting taxpayers’ money should not be spent on them. However, Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation (J-ALL) did not accept her apology and asked her to take back her apology and article. Criticism towards Mio Sugita kept growing and the protest that asks for Mio Sugita to resign continued. The protest took place in Shibuya on 5th, and in front of the LDP headquarters on 10th again. Another protest also took place in Osaka on 5th.
To make matters worse, Tomu Tanikawa, another Lower House LDP, lawmaker, appeared on Abema TV show and said “we don’t need to legalize same-sex marriage. Homosexual is something like a hobby. We all have tried to protect this country by allowing heterosexual couples to get married, form a family, and make babies. That’s how it works. What’s the point of legalizing same-sex marriage and allowing them to get married?” Tomu Tanikawa drew fire. The idea that discrimination towards LGBT+ people can be tolerated in the name of protecting traditional family take root not only in Mio Sugita, but also in the LDP. This is how I see it now.
In order to decry the LDP’s policies that tolerate discrimination, Robert Campbell wrote an article on his
blog titled “society that never lets us say ‘I am here’”
“I actually laughed when I heard her(Tomu Tanikawa) say ‘homesexual is something like a hobby’.” “When I heard the news that Mio Sugita labeled us as ‘unproductive’ and suggested taxpayers’ money should not be spent on us, I became speechless to know how poorly she thinks.” “I have been together with my partner for 20 years. And please allow me to say that I have never experienced violence because of my sexual orientation in Japan. When I was hospitalized a few years ago, the hospital staff, doctors and nurses all treated me and my partner as a couple, telling my partner about my treatment. I can never thank them enough,” said Robert Campbell.
“They don’t use force to get rid of LGBT+ people, but they don’t want to talk about them. If that is a Japanese virtue, I think it needs changing now,” he added. “One of the reasons why Japanese people think they’ve never met LGBT+ people lies in this society that never allows LGBT+ people to say ‘I am here.’ They do exist in Japan. I want Japan to change now,” he said.
Robert Campbell tweeted “I wrote a blog about lawmakers regarding homosexuality as ‘something like a
hobby’ and ‘not worthy of support from society’, which is unbelievable.” “What we need to discuss is not the
remarks, but the atmosphere in Japan that allows them to speak of LGBT+ people like that,” Robert
Campbell added to his tweet. His tweet received more than 20,000 likes and Aya Kamikawa of Setagaya
Ward applauded his tweet, saying “Every word in the blog shows what a calm, collected and smart person he
is. He sees what needs to be done and has a strong will.”
On August 14th, he openly came out in the interview with Kyodo News. “It is disappointing to know people like Mio Sugita and Tomu Tanikawa work as lawmakers. Sexual orientation is a fundamental part of their core being. I didn’t want them to keep spreading misunderstanding of LGBT+ people. That’s why I decided to openly come out and criticize them,” Robert Campbell said.
Robert Campbell, born in New York to Irish family in1957, is the director general of the National Institute of Japanese Literature in Tokyo. He studied in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Graduate School of Fine Arts, Harvard University. Campbell moved to Japan to study Edo literature as a research student in the Department of Japanese Language and Literature, Kyushu University, Fukuoka City in 1985. He then moved on to the National Institute of Japanese Literature, Tokyo (associate professor, 1995), and relocated to the University of Tokyo, where he taught as professor from 2008. His tenure as Director-General of NIJL began in 2017. He is also widely knows as a TV celebrity.