LGBT rights move into mainstream of Japanese political discourse

LGBT communities in Japan continue to struggle with a very conservative society that makes visibility difficult. In a 2015 survey, more than half of respondents said they would be repulsed by the idea of a gay male friend.

However, some have found hope in the conservative leading party’s recent manifesto, which contains a paragraph dedicated to understanding of sexual diversity. This is a significant change from 2007, when an openly gay Japanese politician elicited laughs from crowds as he attempted to run for office. The same man, Ishizaka, won a district assembly seat in 2011.

Improving attitudes towards LGBT people have been influenced by the U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality decision, and Japan’s hosting the Olympics. Businesses like Panasonic have also helped move inclusion with their policies and their recognition of “pink yen” waiting to be spent by Japanese LGBT people. Still, criticism of the conservative party remains, with some saying that the political changes represent more of an effort to appeal to Western crowds than a true move for equality.

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