Speak out in Japan! LGBTs are not alone.

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Interviewee:Antonia Ramstedt, a Swedish international student majoring English Literature at Osaka University. 2014 is the third year for her to organize groups of people to attend Kansai Rainbow Parade. KRP is a gay pride parade organized in Kansai area, celebrating lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender(LGBT)culture and pride. Japanese version/日本語版 → ゲイ・レズビアンを支援する留学生に聞いた日本の課題

In Japan, "come out" is not an easy thing.

ーーwhen was the first time you participated in the Parade in Japan?

2010, I was in Tokyo at that time. This time is my 4th time, 3rd time in Osaka. It is very difficult to do it at start, because I am doing it as an individual (to organize the activity in Osaka University). I wanted to reach everyone, but at first, it’s just me and my friend, but I am doing my best to gather more people as many as possible, including both international students and Japanese students in Osaka University to join the Kansai Rainbow Parade.

ーーWhat do you think of LGBT group, and how are they treated in your country?

I think it is important to protect everyone’s equal rights. For minorities, it shouldn't be a problem no matter what’s your race, gender identity, sexuality, sexual orientation or your ethnic group, it doesn't matter. In Sweden, same sex marriage is a thing, it's a fact. It’s legal. You (same sex couple) can marry in church*1, you can adopt kids, if you want to. Partnership*2 is legalized in 2005, and actual marriage is legalized in 2009.

ーーWhat are LGBT people’s life like in your country? Can you give me some specific examples?

For example, a big difference between japan and Sweden is that when we have idols or talents on TV, in Sweden they are openly gay or bisexual. Here in Japan, though you have Tanoshinko and ikko, I think? The transsexual women, the problem here in Japan is that they are there for laughter, but in Sweden, it is not necessarily to be a comedian, you can be a singer, announcer etc. (So, you think even in Japan there are some LGBT are open in TV, their presence is for fun, for laughter, they are not really accepted by the society?). Well on the record, I am not speaking for those sexual minorities in Japan, because I am not a Japanese, I just see it as an outsider. But from what I saw on the TV, (in Japan) if you are gay or lesbian, you make it for fun. (Besides that)I don't know any famous singer are openly gay. And that's quite different from other countries, let’s say America.

Take pride in who you are! You are not alone.

ーー Do you know any gay or lesbian friends in your daily life?

A Yeah. And also here in Osaka University, there is a student circle for LGBT people. But what I heard is it is very difficult for them to run the circle, nobody is open (to public) of their sexual orientation. (Why is that?)Well one of the reason is that, in Japan, there is a culture that you don't go against a group. If you don't fit in the group, you change yourself or you don't talk about it.

IMG_20141117_235758ーーWhat is the point of doing the Rainbow parade? What are LGBT arguing?

It is still being debated even within the LGBT community. Some of them think we shouldn't make such show out of it, and there are those who thinks that unless we do it, people won’t recognize us. From my personal point of view, the rainbow parade is also called Pride parade, people should really focus on the “Pride”. The good thing about I t(the parade) is that by joining the Pride parade, you (LGBT people) take pride in who you are, and by going down there, you feel connected to others. Also it tells people LGBT exist, and we want equal rights. In Sweden we just say “oh, this is Pride week, this week.” In Sweden, we have this for the whole week, (laugh). And we have 500,000 visitors, who visit it every year. Generally the Parade, they often have political signs, for example “equal rights for all.”, now we don't need it in Sweden (because it is already legalized in 2009), but in America, they have a lot, because they want same sex marriage legalized. I think the parade, yeah, of course it’s about sending political message, but it’s the most about showing that you are not along if you are like us, you may a minority, but you are not one person. And in Japan, in Tokyo and Osaka, I have also seen those political signs in the parade. Also not just political signs, once I have seen some people holding a sign saying that you can go to Tokyo and marry at their place, apparently it is not a legal marriage, but it is a ceremony they can offer you. It’s quite interesting. Even though in Japan partnership is not legalized yet, people still find their ways. (laugh)

Communities with more supporters for LGBT are needed.

ーーIn the future, what do you think organizations of LGBT should do?

A Well I am not sure about the general, but it will be fun, if at least in Osaka University, they organize not just LGBT circles but also include allies, I mean allies for LGBT people can also join in the circle. It will be fun to have an official circle that everyone could join, and in which we can have discussions about minorities, rights… then maybe we can also attend some events etc.

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