Olympics Gave Hope to Japan’s L.G.B.T.Q. Activists. But Old Prejudices Die Hard

06 Jun 2021 11:09 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

Source: New York Times 5 June, 2021


Legislation labeling discrimination “unacceptable” has been blocked by conservative lawmakers, showing how far the country has to go to fulfill the goal of equality enshrined in the Olympic charter.

When Fumino Sugiyama, then a fencer for the Japan women’s national team, decided to come out to one of his coaches as a transgender man, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

What followed shocked him in its brutality.

“You’ve just never had sex with a real man,” the coach responded, and then offered to perform the deed himself, according to a letter that Mr. Sugiyama wrote last fall to Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee.

Mr. Sugiyama, 39, who is now an activist, wanted to give Mr. Bach an unvarnished picture of the deeply entrenched discrimination in Japan, particularly in the rigid world of sports. He also hoped Mr. Bach would lobby the Japanese government on a bill protecting gay and transgender rights. Doing so, Mr. Sugiyama wrote, could shield “the next generation of athletes from what I experienced.”

But now, with the Tokyo Olympics less than two months away, hopes for the bill are running out. While a bipartisan committee advanced a draft of the measure, even its modest goal of labeling discrimination “unacceptable” has proved too much for conservative lawmakers, who have blocked consideration of the bill by the full Parliament.

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