One of Japan’s most visible LGBT athletes . . .
U.S.-based Japanese soccer player Kumi Yokoyama revealed Tuesday that they married their girlfriend in the state of Virginia. A tweet from the athlete announced the marriage and showed a photo of the two smiling newlyweds holding their marriage license. Yokoyama, who uses “they” pronouns and publicly came out as a transgender man in June, has been a long-time advocate for LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage, in Japan. Yokoyama has joined a growing cadre of athletes advocating for policy changes in Japan, a movement that has gained momentum around the Tokyo Olympics, and popular support for LGBT equality is growing.
Advocates see setbacks as part of a bigger picture . . .
Many activists had been looking to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to spur social and legal changes, in part because of a promising bill put forth ahead of the Games declaring discrimination against LGBT individuals “unacceptable.” But the bill was struck down in the spring, and a subsequent watered-down version failed to pass in the summer. Following that blow to the LGBT rights movement, two candidates expressed openness to same-sex marriage in the autumn presidential race. But the leading socially conservative Liberal Democratic Party chose Kishida Fumio to lead the party (and thus become Prime Minister), dashing hopes for significant changes around this issue. Still, many are optimistic that changes are on the horizon in a country where outright anti-gay violence and sentiment are relatively rare, and the constitution does not explicitly mention that marriage must be between a man and a woman.
Pro-LGBT sentiment soars in recent years . . .
Japanese attitudes around same-sex marriage have shifted dramatically in recent years, up from around 40 per cent in 2015 to 65 per cent today. LGBT pride marches that once struggled to attract participants now have corporate sponsors like Mizuho, Panasonic, and Fujitsu. Some 130 Japanese municipalities now have systems to recognize same-sex partnerships. In March of this year, a district court in Sapporo declared the national prohibition of gay marriage unconstitutional. Analysts will be looking to a series of other important Japanese court cases around LGBT equality, with rulings expected in the coming months.