We dedicated this month’s newsletter to kindness. To make 2019 a nicer, kinder and friendlier year for everyone, we thought about what each of us could do.
For January 2019’s Newsletter we collaborated with a Stonewall Block Leader who is currently leading efforts to educate her community about sexual harassment. We define harassment, sexual harassment, and harassment in the work place. Also, Lawyers for LGBT & Allies Network (LLAN) also provided information on anti-harassment laws in Japan and the provisions these laws make.
Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade!
Stonewall Japan is going to Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2018!
1. Stonewall Japan Booth!
Sat 6th 11:00 ~ 18:00
@ Yoyogi Park, Tokyo
→ Visit Stonewall Japan’s booth to meet members and volunteers in the flesh! We’d love to see you!
→ Check out our SOGI swag! We have hand painted sexual
orientation and gender identity flags as donation rewards!
→ Take your chances
and get a ticket or two
to our Rainbow Raffle!
2. Picnic Time!
Sun 7th May, 9:30-18:00
@ Yoyogi Park, Tokyo.
→Come and join us for a relaxing picnic/ chill time in Yoyogi
→Bring some food to share and tarp to sit on if you can!
(Also accessible by the Stonewall Japan FB Page: Events)
3. Stonewall Bar Crawl!
S at 6th May, TBD ~ Late @?Shinjuku Ni-chome
→We’ll hopefully go to a few mixed bars and depending on who
comes, split off to some men’s/woman’s bars or go dancing etc. It
is always a great night out, especially because it’s Pride weekend,
so make sure you’re there!
→If you’re looking for close accommodation, try ACE INN
4. Walk in the parade with us!
Sunday 7th May
→ 10:30-10-:45 meet at Picnic Area
→ 11:00 meeting time for lineup
→ 12:00 Parade Start!
Yoyogi Park, Tokyo
!You Must Register Individually Before You Can
→You can register and receive your ticket on Saturday
5th, 13:00 – 17:00 or early Sunday 6th, 9:00 – last group
→If you want to walk with Stonewall Japan you must
register to follow Float #(float # TBD please check back
! Only 250 people are allowed to walk behind each float, so register early, preferably the day before!
If you want to walk with us, please meet us at the picnic area no later than 10:45.
RAINBOW WEEK: April 28 ~ May 6
FESTA: May 5 Sat @Yoyogi Park 10-18:00 / May 6 Sun @Yoyogi Park 11-18:00
PARADE: May 6 (Sun.) 12:00 ~ 15:30
-Stonewall Japan Team
The weather in October and November had not been friendly; it had been windy and gloomy for quite some time. Luckily, on November 5, a sunny day was bestowed on us! After all, it was the Kyushu Rainbow Pride. Yay!
At 9 a.m. Reisen Park was already full of a festive ambience; balloons, rainbows, uplifting music, and smiles on everyone’s faces. Ami, the partner of our beloved rainbow-fighter Karmen, kindly gave us a hand with booth setups. Time went by so quickly that the intro of the Pride had already started while we were still preparing.
A group cannot live without support and contribution from the public. This year we participated in “Connecting youth with youth supporting groups”, a booth project proposed by a local queer NGO FRENS.
With this project many young people came to our booth to learn about Stonewall Japan and, in exchange, we gave them a stamp as a token of appreciation for their time and interest (to our surprise, many young children came along in the company of their parents). I think this was a brilliant act to reach out and interact with booth visitors.
Face-painting has been Stonewall Japan’s signature booth activity for a million years. But we are also trying out new ideas. This time we launched an unprecedented Stonewall Kyushu Raffle which immediately became a highlight and attracted many people who wanted to try their hand at getting the jackpot – a rainbow humidifier/a unicorn hat. Stonewall member Nelson also initiated an extraordinary activity “Choose a Better Word” to reduce and eliminate the use of exclusionary or derogatory language.
Our lovely rainbow-makers Athena and Nelson were too busy to take a break. As the sun went down, the Pride closed on Kiyotaka’s enchanting performance. In general, I think we had a very fruitful day in promoting our local events and talking to lovely people.
I can hardly wait for the next Rainbow Pride. As always, thank you for all your support and devotion!
Vi ses! ☺
Kansai Rainbow Pride!
First of all, a big thank you to everyone who was able to attend this year’s rainbow event!
The weather wasn’t the best but, on October 8th, we were still able to show our support and walk with pride in the rainbow parade. From info booths and food vendors, to stage performances and even a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony, the Rainbow Festa was educational, emotional and a whole lot of fun.
I hope that everyone who attended had just as much fun as I did! I heard that the event was even featured on Huffington Post Korea’s website! The article is written in Korean, but there are some great pictures of the booths and the parade. If you’d like to check it out, visit http://www.huffingtonpost.kr/minsoo-kim/story_b_18233096.html.
An extra special thank you to the people at TELL, who kindly offered to share their booth with us. Hope to see you again next year!
Mie Rainbow Festa
The first ever pride parade in Mie prefecture!
In conjunction with the popular Tsu festival, a small group got together and marched down the main street with rainbow flags held high and a vintage car float leading the way! It was the first time for and LGBT+ group to have such visibility in a local event, and the organiser hopes to have an even bigger group next year.
If you are interested in participating next year, you can contact the organisers via their Twitter @mieken_RF.
Articles from Oct-Nov Stonewall Kansai Newsletter 2017
Photo credit: Hannah Brown, Monique Tong, Shirin ET
It was February 3rd on a Friday night when, in Ehime prefecture, Niihama’s Akagane museum opened itself up to the gay community. A friend asked me to present about something I felt passionate about and LGBT rights was an obvious choice. The attendees slowly gathered. Niihama residents from various walks in life came to the underground café at Akagane—a retired elementary school teacher, a dentist assistant, a Japanese teacher, some members of Niihama’s guides club, two city hall employees, and one high schooler were in attendance for the LGBT presentation.
The presentation started with a basic explanation of the acronym “LGBT”. After explaining what each letter stands for I believe most people got the general gist of it. For about 70% of the audience, it was their first time seeing the acronym.
After a few minutes we started a “maru-batsu” quiz (true or false quiz). The first question was: “According to global statistics, in a class of 30 students, there are about 1 or 2 students who are LGBT.” This statement is true, and the majority of people guessed correctly. People were really shocked to learn that 7% of Japan’s population is LGBT. Or that the earliest some LGBT people realize their identity is before they enter elementary school — others realize as late as junior high school. One of the biggest shocks for people was hearing there was a gay bar in Niihama!
Another thing that shocked people was that in the next town over, Ehime, there is a support center for sexual minorities. After sharing these statistics about LGBT Japan, people had many questions. As a group we clarified each other’s questions. Some people who were knowledgeable about the LGBT community were able to answer questions better than I could in Japanese.
Following the maru-batsu section we broke into group discussions. The first question I asked everyone was: “If your child was a boy and said he liked boys, what would you do?” This was the high point of the lecture. People had very deep and intense conversations. I went in and out of several groups, listening to the conversations people shared. One man gave a superb example of explaining sexual identity: a woman tastes an apple, she likes it. She then tastes an orange. She doesn’t like the orange as much as the apple. Why does she prefer the apple over the orange? The answer: preferring an apple over an orange, a woman preferring a woman over a man, or preferring both, these are natural choices. Those choices are different for each person. It’s not wrong, it’s not right, it’s just different, and that’s perfectly fine. For example, how does a man who likes women explain why he likes women? Can he explain that? And why should he need to explain that? In Japan’s society, however, being different from the group is bad. In schools, children get bullied for being different from everyone else. Standing out makes things harder and “the nail which sticks out gets hammered down” 「出るくぎは打たれる」 is, unfortunately, still the mindset of most Japanese people.
Towards the end of the presentation, one older Japanese man stood up to give his opinion on our group discussion. He said, “This was the first time I heard about people who are LGBT. In Japan, this is an issue we don’t normally talk about. I think it’s important for everyone to understand what being LGBT means and to be accepting of sexual minorities.” The presentation that day ended well and I felt everyone was on board with understanding more about the LGBT community.
My name is Scott Tamaki, I’m an ALT from America. I’m not LGBT, but I have supported LGBT people/sexual minorities and their rights since high school. My uncle is gay and married to a nice English man. I have lived in Japan for three years and heard horrible stories of LGBT Japanese people committing suicide, being violently bullied, fired from work for being gay or lesbian, unable to visit their loved one in the hospital after an accident, or being denied adoption rights.
My simple request for people who read this article: Do your own research about LGBT people. Learn about the Japanese LGBT community, watch an LGBT movie, or learn more about the LGBT support organization: “Pride Ehime.”
The human rights violations against the LGBT+ community can end if more people become allies (people not LGBT but who support LGBT rights), and if more people understand the issue.
Stonewall Japan was ambitious this year! Unlike previous years where we only did a Sunday booth, Leadership decided that we would have a booth and a picnic for both Saturday and Sunday. We also had a fun bar crawl on Saturday night, as well as participated in the Pride Parade on Sunday.
In case you didn’t know, every year Tokyo Rainbow Pride (TRP) gets bigger and bigger. In 2017, TRP had over 108,000 people in attendance, beating last year’s record by about 30,000 more people. According to the TRP website, over 35,000 people came on May 6th, 65,000 on the 7th, along with 5,000 people in the parade, and 3,000 for other events.
That’s why we wanted to try out doing more this year. With more people than ever coming to this event, we wanted to bring more people together into our community. Of course, we also wanted to have a lot of fun!
Before the Main Event
It was a bit intimidating at first trying to organize volunteers and schedules. Luckily I had a secret weapon: previous Stonewall President Louis. After we did a pre-meeting via Google Hangouts, we arranged nearly all the schedules and emails.
Two days before TRP, we both sent articles to All About Japan discussing Stonewall and the Stonewall events planned for those days. With more exposure, we hoped to bring more people to the booth and picnics, as well as just get our presence out there so that others could join our group.
Later, Kanto Leaders Kyle and Kayla were chosen to take charge of the picnic and I was chosen to lead the booth. Our volunteers were finalized, and everything just needed to come together.
Saturday – Booth
From morning to evening, TRP Festa was busy and bustling. When I and the morning volunteers arrived at 9:30, there was already a crowd forming around the drag queen crew at the front entrance for photos. This year TRP was sponsored by a record 190 companies and organizations, all of them set up in huge booths with bright signs, free drinks, and mascots on display. There were big names like NTT Corp., Sony Corp. and Google Inc., which had its annual photo booth for nice pride pics. Every stall this year was literally jam-packed with attendees.
All in all, it was a stark contrast to the first year of TRP, which was mostly a few NPOs and local Tokyo LGBT groups. TRP has come a long way from a small pride event and has transformed into a fully loaded movement.
Our booth was squeezed in between the “Fruits in Suits” booth and a corporation with an orange bear mascot. We received a lot of visitors, and the volunteers worked all day to give out face paints, as well as conduct surveys on the LGBTQIA+ community. Even though the day was hot and the work was hard, we had a great time meeting new people and chatting with everyone who came by!
Saturday – Picnic
At about 11, a group came together at Yoyogi Park for some fun snacks, beers, and good times!
For most of the day, people ate, drank, and made good memories with fellow Stonewall members and leaders. The picnic lasted until about 5, when everyone decided it was time to grab some food before the big bar crawl.
Saturday – Bar Crawl
At the annual bar crawl, a large group of Stonewall members headed out for a fun night in Shinjuku’s famous Nichome. Starting at 21:00, we gathered at Aiiro Cafe for a quick drink to get started.
We slowly met up with both Stonewallers and members of Tokyo’s LGBT Meetup group. We chatted and introduced ourselves to each other, and managed to take our group picture! From there, we wandered over at 22:00 to an already-crowded Eagle. Everyone found new friends to meet and chat with! In order to accommodate both men and women, at 23:30 we headed to the everyone-friendly Arty Farty around the corner. We all danced and sang to some of the best music available in Nichome. As time ticked closer to one in the morning, we made our way to Annex to finish the evening with lighter music, dancing, and lots of opportunities to chat and say our goodbyes as we parted ways. The bar crawl was a fantastic evening, with new friendships forged and old friendships rekindled. Join us at the bar crawl next year and help us make it an even bigger event!
Sunday – Booth and Parade!
Face paints were a non-stop event at the booth! Everyone was prepped and ready for the main event of the day: The Pride Parade!
Stonewall Japan gathered around 11:30 for the big group picture in front of a very beautiful flower dog at the center of the Festa. Then we headed off to regroup behind float 22. This year we got a DJ float so we could dance the whole way through!
A very special thanks to the volunteers who stayed at the booth for over two hours while we marched. They made sure to keep getting donations and painting faces!
Even though the parade took longer than originally thought, it was exciting to be a part of this massive solidarity experience. A big thanks to everyone who marched in the heat and sun to represent us and to walk for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people.
After all the hard work – over two days’ worth – we closed the booth early so the overworked volunteers could get a chance to be a part of the Festa and the picnic experiences.
Over those two days we made over 26,000 yen in donations. Ioana made some progress on surveys; I believe over fifty people participated. All in all, a success for Stonewall and its fabulous members!
Sunday – Picnic
The Sunday picnic was an amazing success!
We were close to the same spot as Saturday’s picnic, in Yoyogi park. Everything was set up and arranged around 11 a.m. and came to a close at 5 p.m.
The day was full of people coming and going from our little picnic, and of fun, friendly, thoughtful conversations.
Everyone was polite and, when the event was coming to a close, the small group who remained was kind enough to help clean up our picnic area and dispose of trash.
Cheers for more wonderful picnics for Stonewall and let’s hope next year’s Stonewall Japan experience at Tokyo Pride is just as lovely.
Without all of the volunteers the event couldn’t have happened at all, so thank all of you so much! All the leaders for those days and activities are also recognized: Kyle, Kayla, Jon, and George, you are all amazing. May so much rainbow love go your way!
See you all at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2018!
Kayla Johnson and Jon Lucas also contributed to this article.
Trans man Tomoya Hosoda (25) has been elected a councillor for the city of Iruma (Saitama Prefecture) (http://www.saitama-np.co.jp/news/2017/03/14/07.html).
He placed 21st out of the 22 seats contested in the election. “It was a tight race, I still haven’t really processed it”, Hosoda said, surrounded by supporters as he received the news Monday morning.
Hosoda has stated that he does not just want to fight for LGBTQ rights, but also for the rights of the disabled and the elderly, by playing his part in constructing a system that embraces diversity and helps minorities.
“Until recently, people have acted as if sexual minorities do not exist. We have many hurdles to overcome, but I hope to live up to everyone’s expectations”, Hosoda stated, adding that he has received many messages of support and gratitude from LGBTQ individuals ever since he announced his run for city council.
Hosoda came out and transitioned while attending Teikyo University’s Department of Clinical Laboratory Science, and changed his name and gender in the family registry in 2015. While a student, he expressed his desire to raise awareness and work to prevent and treat sexually transmitted diseases in Japan (Source: http://lgbter.jp/tomoya_hosoda2/), and participated in various LGBTQ events such as Out in Japan to enhance trans visibility (http://outinjapan.com/tomoya-hosoda/).
Hosoda is the first LGBTQ candidate in the history of Saitama prefecture, and the second transgender politician to be elected in Japan (following Kamikawa Aya in 2003).
By Ioana Fotache, Stonewall Japan Secretary
This article was originally published in the February 2017 issue of the Connect magazine. For more information about Connect and their engaging articles written by and for the ex-pat community in Japan, please visit their website.
“Closeted – Adjective / klɒzɪtɪd / Keeping something secret, especially the fact of being homosexual.”
If you have ever been (or indeed still are) closeted, you can agree it is no bed of roses. Having to conceal your sexuality and a part of your identity from family, friends, colleagues, and peers can leave you feeling isolated, confined, and frustrated.
There is a reason why the term “closeted” is used with regard to those who are keeping their sexuality a secret from those around them. It is dark. It is restrictive. It is suffocating.
My time spent in the closet was awash with confusion and anguish, on both a mental and emotional level, as I tried my best to circumnavigate across the spectrum of my own sexuality. Even now when I reflect on my experiences being in the closet, I cannot help but grimace.
Flashback to my high school days. I am sitting with my female friends in the canteen, engrossed in enjoyable conversation. “Mate, are you, like, a faggot or something?” one of the popular, athletic types suddenly probes. Silence. Those around stare. Silence is soon replaced with sniggers and slurs. My words fail me as I desperately try to salvage a fragment of my crumbling heterosexual façade. Deeper into my closet I withdraw.
This was just one of the day-to-day experiences that I encountered during my youth which made me feel like I would never be able to escape the dark solitude of my closet.
Fortunately, however, my closet was only a temporary abode. I was able to step out of the darkness into a warm and accepting welcome from all of my family and friends, to which I am extremely grateful. The positive reaction from those around me left me wondering what it was that had made me so fearful to come out during my younger years. The world outside the closet was bright. Liberating. I could breathe, finally; I had cast off my shackles and bid adieu to the isolation of my closet for once and for all. Or so I had thought.
Before leaving for Japan on the JET Programme, my sexuality was the last thing on my mind. During Pre-Departure Orientation, lecturers kindly gave speeches discussing the difficulties that incoming JETs can face after arriving in Japan — mainly culture shock. Given the geographical distance between Britain and Japan, I tried to mentally prepare myself as best as possible for the impending culture shock which awaited me in the land of the rising sun.
Much time was spent considering the challenges that await foreigners in Japan. However, topics which were never discussed were the challenges which lay in wait for me as a homosexual male.
With Tokyo Orientation over all too soon, I suddenly found myself behind my desk at work on the first day of my new job. An uncomfortable mixture of nerves and jet lag, matched with the stifling heat of the Japanese summer, meant my once freshly-cleaned shirt was drenched in perspiration as I began to make my rounds greeting different people within city hall. After many introductions and an excessive amount of bowing, one particular gentlemen mentions my big gaijin nose and compliments my physical attributes. This was met with laughter from my new supervisor. “Relax! He’s not a homo. Don’t worry!”
My throat ran dry.
My words failed me.
I decided to smile graciously and let the comment slide as playful office banter.
After a long first day at work, I was quickly ushered to a local izakaya which was filled with the faces of my new work colleagues. It’s my welcome party. The smell of cigarette smoke and sake filled my nostrils as I took my seat within the venue. After a few words of greeting, a couple cans of Kirin Ichiban, the conversation turned to relationships.
“Nick, do you have a girlfriend?”
“Nick, what is your type?”
“Nick, what do you think of Japanese girls?”
The barrage of questions was quick and relentless. In that moment, I was offered two choices: tell the truth or lie.
I regrettably chose the latter.
Like a repeat offender, I find myself being frog-marched back into my closet once again. Though many years have passed, my closet remains unchanged and the familiar darkness greets me like an old friend. Only this time, my closet feels smaller and more cramped than I remember. I awkwardly contort my body, trying to squeeze into the same space which my 14-year-old self would have had no problem fitting into. My brief spell outside of the closet had enabled me to grow in many more ways than I could have imagined.
I had once naïvely thought that stepping out of the closet would be one of the hardest challenges I would face in my life. However, admittedly, stepping out of the closet, enjoying the taste of liberation, and then being forced back into the same closet is undeniably even more challenging.
However, this is of course not just limited to myself. I imagine that many members from the LGBTQIA living in Japan are faced with similar situations on a regular basis. Living in Japan for any minority can be a stressful and at times frustrating experience. However, members of the queer community are statistically more likely to be faced with additional anguish and strife. Unfortunately, this mental and emotional burden can often lead to low self-esteem, alcohol/drug abuse, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Finding solace and refuge within a queer space can be an excellent way to reduce the stress and anguish of everyday life. From an outside perspective, the bars, clubs, discotheques, and other queer spaces as found in Shinjuku Ni-chome and Kita-ku might appear to be nothing more than a place where gay men drink vodka and twerk to the likes of Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj on a superficial level. However, these queer spaces are much more than this. These queer spaces offer sanctuary. Safety. Family. Home. It is a place to step out of the proverbial closet and present the most authentic and honest version of yourself.
Unfortunately, for those who do not reside in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, queer spaces and communities are seldom found. From my experience, this can heighten one’s sense of isolation and solitude while living in the inaka of Japan. Though you can surround yourself with many close friends within the local community and among fellow JETs and alumni, the lack of a queer space to retreat to can leave you with an unshakeable feeling of loneliness. My incarceration within the closet seems perpetual.
However, the worst was yet to come.
On June 12, 2016, an assailant walked into Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, armed with an SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a 9mm Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol. Opening fire, the gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a heinous hate crime. This was both the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman and the worst attack against the LGBTQIA in United States history.
Pulse was a gay nightclub. It was a queer space. A place which people retreat to in search of acceptance, unity, and love, had in that instance been desecrated into somewhere of discrimination, stigma, and hate.
The LGBTQIA community worldwide was in mourning.
My alarm sounds at 7 a.m. on a seemingly ordinary dreaded Monday. I stir. I yawn. I stretch. I reach for my iPhone and begin scrolling through Facebook as I steal a couple of extra minutes in bed. Expecting the usual stream of selfies and memes, I pause. Stunned. I frantically read through article after article feeling a surge of different emotions, even a world away.
My clock now reads 07:32 a.m. Work beckons me. It is in that instant that I realize that similar to my sexuality, my emotions too must be left firmly sealed within my closet.
As with any other Monday, I routinely pull out my trousers, shirt, tie, and jacket from my closet and begin to get dressed. I apply cologne, style my hair, and put on my watch. My last accessory to apply is the most important — my mask of heterosexuality. With a heavy heart, I cower behind this mask.
Wanting to grieve but not being permitted to because of societal values and norms has been my toughest challenge to date. Forcing a smile, I try to feign normality. It was in this instance that I felt my closet was at its darkest. However, to quote a well-known proverb, “the darkest hour comes just before the dawn.”
As I sit pondering my desolation inside my closet, a faint voice calls out from the darkness: “You are not alone.”
Like music to my ears, my heart leaps as my eyes scan my closet trying to distinguish who had called out to me from the shadows. My search is in vain as I see nothing but darkness: “It gets better.”
A different voice calls out from another corner of my closet, only louder: “We are here for you.”
A chorus of encouragement erupts from within my closet. Suddenly, a light switches on and I see that I am not alone. Faces smile at me and I recognize these people as my comrades of the LGBTQIA cause. These are of course the faces of Stonewall Japan and other allies. Comment after comment fills the page from people offering support and love for those in need. My anger is replaced with determination. My loneliness replaced with togetherness. My sorrow replaced with pride.
I realise as I sit in my apartment amongst the Japanese rice fields, that to escape the darkness of my closet, all I had to do was remember to turn on the light.
Nick Lavin is a 3rd year CIR and the AJET Vice Chair located in Takaoka City, Toyama Prefecture. He majored in Japanese Studies at the University of Manchester, and has an interest in linguistics and queer culture. He wrote his thesis regarding queer identity through the medium of the Japanese language. Nick likes to spend his weekends drinking good coffee, hanging out with friends, and endlessly watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. Also, food. Lots of it.