LGBT in Tokyo
Tokyoities cannot be proud of a very slow progress
Three decades ago around this time of the year, I was furiously studying organizational behavior, a study of organizations in business, at business school in Atlanta, Georgia. The class of human resources management gave me a lot of challenges such as understanding the basic human rights in workplaces. Even in conservative Georgian classmates mixed with the minority classmate to fathom the victim of AIDS, a deadly disease associated with gay’s sexual behaviors. The blood transfer could be a cause.
Before coming to a business school, I had never formally been trained to incorporate the legal implication in business for non-discriminately attitudes toward minority people. The Japanese society remained a homogeneous one for a long time.
My brief exposure was somewhat not enough with undergraduate education in Michigan and subsequent employment at Swiss investment bank with diversified group of 100+ employees around the world. Until mid-thirty, I had never worked for Japanese bosses.
That was long time ago.
When a news story came to my attention last November, I was astonished with my eye balls in awe. For more than three decades, Tokyo has made a little progress in understanding minority people. Worse, according to the newspaper, the current administration is still opposed to legalize gay marriage.
Legalization is a big deal. The conservative ruling party blocked the promotion of understanding LGBT people in Japan. That is backward. Even intolerable is the fact that a legislator said that LGBT, a gay and transgender people “go against the preservation of the species”. Remove the strike. That statement is utterly unforgivable. Don’t discriminate them in workplaces and schools.
Japanese general public have gradually been understanding LGBT and approving of the sexual orientation to the same gender. The openness to same-sex marriage has been acknowledged, but it is not enough. Some 65% of the ordinary people approve of the same-sex partnership. 130 municipal governments adapted systems to recognize the partnership, representing 40% of them in Japan. At national level, they are opposed to it. Being national often means being here in Tokyo.
Three unwelcome forces explain the situation.
First, politicians look at electoral votes in 50 prefectures. Most areas in Japan, some part in Tokyo, are ageing. In a decade or so, one-third of the Japanese will be 65 or older. They are conservative dwellers with little exposure to the Western value. As they get older, the more conservative they become. Voting climate is not good for minority in Tokyo. The city realizes that at least 10% of Shibuya ward, one of 23 wards in 13m populations, is LGBT.
The second is the composition of Supreme Court judges. Out of fifteen judges residing in the courtroom, only four of them received education from the western environment. Three of them have been to Harvard with one judge from Washington State University. The slow progress is due to less liberal structure of the composition. There are fewer cases presented before the court to fight the discrimination in the workplaces. Discrimination or bullying in school is rarely reported.
Fewer and fewer Japanese go to school in America because of the cost of education and Covid-19. This is not a good sign.
The third and the serious misunderstanding among the Japanese public is that same-sex marriage predominantly project a bad image of sexual life, a very different social convention in homogeneous and collective society of Japan. They say it is not proper. The homogeneity enhances the conservatism. It is true that marriage involves some sexual behaviors. But it has little to do egotism.
A long fight ensues whenever I came across the devastating story like this. This battle must be won by the minority. It is often the case that the good movement starts with small scale at local level. Understand LGBT people. Don’t discriminate them at workplace. They should not be judged by sexual orientation.
Are we proud of ourselves in understanding LGBT? Before people in America, I can say that Japan, even Tokyo has not made a progress. It is going to a long way to go.