Japan has become the first country to elect a transgender man to a public office. 25-year-old Tomoya Hosoda was elected as the councilor for the city of Iruma, Saitama in the Kanto region.
Image via Saitama-Np
Hosoda commented that fighting for LGBTQ rights will not be his only focus, but that he will fight for the rights of the disabled, the elderly, and lead in constructing a social system that embraces diversity and provide help to minorities living in Japan.
One common form of discrimination minorities and the disabled face in Japan is access to housing and services. Some apartments, hotels, and bath houses put up signs saying non-Japanese people will not be served. While Japan designates any non-Japanese born person a minority, there is also discrimination against the burakumin (village people), which is an outcast in Japanese society. While “illegal,” employers will run background checks to see if an applicant’s familial background includes any burakumin (people who worked as executioners, in slaughterhouses, or other ‘impure’ jobs). It’s common for burakumin to be unemployed due to this.
However, Japan has long been viewed as a rigid society that shuns the LGBTQ community outside of sexualized media. Hosoda said, “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.”
According to Equeldex, Japan does not recognize same-sex marriages, does not provide protection against employment discrimination (meaning you can be fired if your boss discovers you are homosexual), and face housing discrimination (landlords can refuse to lease to anyone they think is homosexual).
Image via Out in Japan
After changing his name and gender in 2015, Hosoda began actively participating at various LGBTQ events and helped with the “Out in Japan” campaign. The campaign was established to help raise awareness of the LGBTQ community within Japan. In a profile for Out in Japan, Hosoda wrote:
“I thought that I could not be happy.
“But I remember to taking my courage and deciding to come out and hope to live.
“For me, coming out is just the starting line. Some walls cannot be overcome by one person. But at such time, we have to work together and help each other out. By moving forward one step at a time and meeting all kinds of people, ways of thinking and values start to change.”
After hearing about his election, Hosoda thanked the support of his parents, friends, and relatives. Hosoda also urges others to find the courage to come out and to help open discussion about LGBTQ issues in Japan.