2014年 09月 23日
greenz.jp, a web magazin, have an article on Pink Dot Okinawa.
(written by Miyuki Muryama)
English version (translated by Brent Lue)
Right Next To You:
An Event Report on Pink Dot Okinawa
and living together with LGBT minorities
Just thinking of a world where you can't live true to yourself,
or you're forced to hide the real "you" is a pretty uncomfortable
thought. The idea of always feeling that discomfort for me, frankly,
takes my breath away. But the truth is that many LGBT people live
with this stress every day.
On July 21st, an event called Pink Dot Okinawa was held in Naha,
Okinawa. There, LGBT people and their supporters gathered in public
to create a warm, friendly, and inviting environment for people
to just be themselves.
Pink Dot was created in the spirit of creating an LGBT-friendly society.
To this end, supporters around the world dress themselves in pink,
gather in one spot, and make their appeal to society at large.
Just last year, Pink Dot Okinawa was the first of its kind in Japan,
and it drew a considerable amount of attention.
This year's Pink Dot Okinawa drew approximately 1,000 participants,
topping last year's record. It's our hope that by understanding
how things were on the ground, you'll get a good feel for the latest in
LGBT activism in Japan.
Pink Dot Okinawa Round 2:
A Diverse Set of Smiles
(↑A very Okinawan bingata art workshop. There were also a variety of
food and drink stalls in addition to HIV information panels. )
When I first talked to Nijimai, an Okinawan LGBT youth group based
in Southern Okinawa, I learned that social groups like theirs were
a rarity, and that in fact Nijimai was only formed in May of 2013.
Last year’s Pink Dot Okinawa was a major reason why the group
decided to form, and as a result I got a sense of just how important
this event was.
As of now, it seems that LGBT youth groups like Nijimai are growing
in a variety of places, especially at college campuses.
As these sorts of social frameworks spread, many hope to prevent
LGBT people from feeling completely alone and disconnected.
(↑Members from Nijimai. An LGBT group based in southern Okinawa,
they meet once a month and sold social events where they talk
about love, romance, a variety of issues. )
At a booth where “partnership certificates” were presented,
one same-sex couple stood out. Married ten years ago in Canada,
a lesbian couple of two ladies--one American, and one Japanese
—were raising their 2-year-old son in Okinawa.
However, it seems that they’ve been thinking of leaving Japan
in the future for the sake of their child. With that, I realized
the necessity of firm legal protections for same-sex couples
in Japan, too.
The Talk of the Town: A Homecoming Wedding
As the event came to a close, guests were treated to a full-blown
homecoming wedding ceremony between Kazuki Kinjo and
Harold Chaput, who were married officially in Canada 10 years ago.
However, they had never celebrated before in Kazuki’s native Okinawa,
nor in public.
Funds for this event were gathered via crowdfunding, and it was only
through the efforts of 117 donors that this dream was made possible.
(↑Harold glances assuringly at Kazuki as he goes through a moment of
nerves. The two looked so happy that day.)
The two appeared on stage all decked in custom-made white dress
shirts and shorts. Hundreds of participants nestled up to the stage to
give the happy couple their blessings.
There was so much to be moved by: countless people were brought
to tears either by the signing of the marriage declaration, the trading
of the traditional Okinawan sugarcane-dyed scarves, the messages
delivered from Kazuki’s younger brother, or the tossing of the
bouquet (two same-sex couples caught them).
Looking at this happy scene, I have no doubt that a great number of
same-sex couples wished that they, too, could have had this same sort
of joyous celebration of their own partnerships. Events like these only
serve to embolden and encourage LGBT people to believe that they,
too, can be happy in the future.
Nothing was yelled out loud or screamed for the world to hear,
but just the sight of Harold and Kazuki’s happiness was
the strongest message out there.
Following the ceremony, Kazuki also commented in his own words:
“I was so happy to be able to come home to Okinawa and celebrate
my tenth year of marriage with a wedding ceremony in front of
so many members of Okinawa’s LGBT community. Marriage isn’t
the only way to happiness, nor is “happiness” marriage’s only,
ultimate goal. But I’d like for same-sex marriage to be an option
in the lives of LGBT people. Being unable to marry and choosing
not to marry (despite being able to) are completely different, you see."
With high spirits abound, the event concluded with Pink Dot’s
participants gathering in a final commemorative photo,
which you can see above.
Success! But much remains to be done…
As an event, Pink Dot Okinawa as a huge success, but to realize
the dream of making a truly LGBT-friendly society will take
a great deal of work. In that vein, I asked Pink Dot's co-representative
Ms. Miyagi what she felt was necessary, and what average people
could do to contribute.
(↑Co-representative Yuka Miyagi, with the event's mascot, Pinkmaaru.)
It was only until last year that Ms. Miyagi was active in the LGBT-rights
scene in Japan. Though she had interest in participating, it was only
until she became Pink Dot’s co-representative that she became
fully aware of what was at stake.
MIYAGI: "This year, we've been doing a lot of in-person talks and
lectures. I've realized that we really have to start with the basics:
things that are really obvious to me and other LGBT people are not
quite so to others. The truth is that I often feel like a lot of straight-
people in Japan are completely oblivious to the existence of LGBT
But with Pink Dot, things are completely different because the people
who show up generally have a good understanding of the community
and what it faces. You almost jump back in shock. But it's precisely
because of this large berth that there's this great need to educate
It's not just simply a matter of bringing about awareness, either.
As Ms. Miyagi pointed out, her greatest fear involves the future.
As she gets older with her partner, the likelihood of medical trouble will
only get bigger.
MIYAGI: “When I made a public coming out as a lesbian through
a newspaper article last year, I was soon hospitalized and underwent
surgery. I had to present my partner and say, "Please entrust her with
full authority. If something happens, make sure to contact her."
Many same-sex couples face the same problem if one partner gets sick.
Typically, their partners are not able to hear what's wrong from doctors,
or are barred from making treatment decisions. In cases where
partners and family members don’t get along, loved ones can even be
denied visitation rights.
No matter how long a couple has lived together and shared a life,
the truth is that there are no protections at all in Japan.
As Ms. Miyagi explains, "hospitals and other healthcare provides
absolutely need to be aware of LGBT issues. Most places, I think,
have absolutely no coordinated way of handling LGBT partners. It's
definitely an issue that needs to be addressed.
As someone with chronic illness who spends considerable time in
hospitals, such an issue plays a huge role in Ms. Miyagi's life. I'm
sure, however, there are a great number of other LGBT people
who face the same set of circumstances.
How to Make an LGBT-Friendly Society
"When you start getting involved, you realize that there's so much
to be done"--speaking further with Ms. Miyagi, I asked what we could
do in order to help make the dream of an LGBT-friendly society a
MIYAGI: “I don't know if the word 'always' here is appropriate
or not, but I’d like more people to always be aware that LGBT
people are out there", she said, "But how to do this in a more practical
sense?", I asked.
MIYAGI: "There are a lot of negative words that are still used towards
or concerning LGBT people these days. I think it's incredibly important
to make sure to avoid offensive stereotypes and language.
But the problem here is that they often come out on television,
so people end up thinking it's totally okay to use them."
Indeed caution is necessary when using words that typically come out
on Japanese television (like onee, homo, or rezu), because they have
strongly offensive and discriminatory nuances. (In general, it's often
better to use the words that LGBT people actually use, like gay
instead of homo, or lesbian or bian instead of rezu).
(↑The people here all have different sexualities. The same can be said
of people everyday!)
MIYAGI: "In a lot of our public talks and lectures, I also hear some
people who say, 'I'm normal, but I have LGBT friends.' And I have
to think, what the heck do you mean by 'normal'? The opposite
of 'normal' is 'abnormal'.
As a word that people tend to use every day without much of a thought,
"normal" has the potential to hurt not just LGBT people, but any
member of a minority.
That said, it’s not just a matter of being careful with our words.
As Ms. Miyagi continues, it’s also important to realize that an LGBT
person may be right next to you.
If we just imagine an LGBT person is within our social networks,
she suggests, we might all be a little bit more inclined to be careful
of what we say.
Though she feels some unease at the reality of LGBT life today in Japan,
Ms. Miyagi is extremely happy with the success of Pink Dot Okinawa's
(↑Ms. Miyagi announcing the start of festivities. The "Dot" that was born
last year became a circle, she said.)
MIYAGI: Pink Dot’s success is apparent in the wide variety of people
who attend: this time, we didn’t just have LGBT people themselves,
but last year’s participants, and people who came all the way
from the mainland and overseas just for Pink Dot. Ideally, I'd love for
this circle of activity to spread far beyond just Okinawa.
As I write, the environment that LGBT people face is rapidly changing
the world over. While problems remain, the reality is that there are
significantly more places in the media where LGBT issues get coverage.
Aside from Pink Dot itself, Tokyo’s Rainbow Pride Parade 2014 was held
this year during Golden Week. Prime Minister Abe's wife even
participated, rawing the attention of both the Japanese media and myriad
However, with regards to the daily lives of LGBT people—at school,
at work, or at home—the reality is that many people lack a basic
understanding that an LGBT person may be right in front of them
or right next door. As a result, working towards making LGBT
awareness a part of daily life still seems to be the greatest
challenge ahead in Japan.
Thinking back at all the people at Pink Dot Okinawa smiling,
having fun, and being at ease, I hope from the bottom of
my heart that this sort of joy can spread the world over.
Hideki Sunagawa, an anthropologist and gay rights activist in Okinawa. email@example.com twitter: @H_Sunagawa