KYODO NEWS KYODO NEWS – 7 hours ago – 08:41 | Sports, News, All, Japan
The Tokyo Olympics demonstrated there is an increasing willingness among LGBT athletes to openly discuss issues around sexuality, gender identity and equality in the most public of international forums.
More and more Japanese athletes are joining the wave of openness, listing reasons like greater consciousness around the issues, as well as more nuanced discussion on social media for their willingness to «come out» from their presumed heterosexual identities.
Such issues attracted an unprecedented level of interest at the just-ended Tokyo Olympics. At least 185 members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer-plus community competed in the games, more than triple the number in Rio in 2016, according to LGBT-focused media outlet Outsports.
On last year’s National Coming Out Day, an annual LGBT awareness day celebrated on Oct. 11 in many parts of the world, Airi Murakami, a former member of the national women’s rugby team, revealed on social media she is in a same-sex relationship.
«I had lived my life worried about what others think but I was saved by a community who accepted me for who I am,» Murakami said.
The 31-year-old faced homophobic bullying in high school when she dated someone on her women’s basketball team and her mother even became a target of harassment. That experience led her to suppress her feelings and retreat to a closeted life.
She found the courage to reveal her secret when she switched from basketball to rugby and joined a corporate team, Yokogawa Musashino Artemi-Stars, where she felt welcomed and respected by her Australian manager and teammates.
She was met with love and support when two years ago she opened up to them about her partner, she said.
Around that time, women’s soccer player Shiho Shimoyamada, 26, publicly came out as gay on a blogging site, a rare move for a still-active Japanese athlete.
Shimoyamada’s decision surprised Murakami, but she was struck by the overwhelmingly positive response the soccer player received.
With the Olympics being held in Tokyo, Murakami saw it as her chance to speak out.
Coming out and having people know the real her transformed Murakami’s life.
She became involved in LGBT activism and joined the fight for social change. She responded to questions about gender and sexuality on social media and put her name and profile behind the push for same-sex marriage legalization.
«Now that my doubts are gone I too want to use my voice and help others,» she said.
Yu Oshima, 34, is a transgender man who played in Japan’s Nadeshiko League, the country’s top-flight women’s soccer league, until the age of 27. He was biologically assigned female at birth, but identifies as a male.
Since retiring from competitive sport, Oshima has worked in sales for a job recruitment website that provides services to sexual minorities.
With the Olympics becoming a strong promoter of discussion around gender and sexuality, more businesses are wanting to talk about gender diversity in the workplace, leading to more speaking opportunities for Oshima.
When he speaks to an audience about the type of gender discrimination that is an everyday reality for him, Oshima is honest about what he has experienced and how it made him feel. It is his way of contributing in a positive way to conversations around gender equality.
He does not want gender equality to be a trend or an afterthought. To him, it is a human right and a priority.
Oshima will take part in a Paralympic torch relay event in his home prefecture of Saitama on Aug. 19.
«It would be great if I get to express thanks to my family and friends who have always supported me, and prove that people like me exist, in a place that celebrates our differences.»
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KYODO NEWS KYODO NEWS – 18 minutes ago – 15:18 | Sports, All
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