Tomohiro Osaki at The Japan Times has written a thoughtful piece...

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Tomohiro Osaki at The Japan Times has written a thoughtful piece examining some of the hardships of LGBTQ people face daily in Japan. 

Baby steps towards social equality are being made: last week, Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward introduced a proposal to formally recognize same-sex relationships through through city-issued certificates. It’s not exactly gay marriage– more of a separate but equal arrangement– but an encouraging development nonetheless. Shibuya’s neighbor, Setagaya Ward, followed suit today, proposing a same-sex relationship certificate program of its own. 

If these proposals pass, they could go a long way towards combating Japan’s rampant housing, healthcare and workplace discrimination against LGBTQ people. The article points out some shocking statistics that reveal some of the systemic problems facing Japanese queer people:

  • “70 percent of sexual minorities in Japan have faced some form of bullying in school, and 30 percent of those who experienced violence have contemplated suicide.”
  • The number of LGBT callers to a consultation hotline run by the Health, Welfare and Labor Ministry, who have considered suicide is nearly double the number of heterosexual callers. 
  • Only 18.7% of 607 major companies in Japan offer some form of non-discrimination policy for their LGBT employees, compared to 96.8% of Fortune 500 companies.
  • In a recent survey by the NGO Nijiro Diversity (Rainbow Diversity), “70 percent of 1,200 LGBT company workers said a discriminatory attitude toward sexual minorities existed in their workplace.”

Unchecked harassment of LGBT people in the workplace is one of the primary reasons named by many of the gay artists Anne and I met in the process of making Massive for why they prefer to obscure their identities. They may be out of the closet to their friends and community, but becoming a public gay personality could seriously jeopardize their careers outside of gay art (which, unfortunately, is rarely the main source of income for these artists). 

The Japan Times article also mentions one innovative way many queer couples have historically circumvented the ban on gay marriage in Japan: adoption. 

In May 2012, Shoi [Osawa], then 24, adopted Kazuki, who was 23. As a result, the two are now listed on the same “koseki” family registry unit. That way, they can at least rest assured they will now be treated as family members in a hospital should one of them require medical attention.