Standing left to right, Asher Sullivan, Pauline Park, Natsuko, Amy Rothman, Alison Polizzi, and Maaya Kawahara. Kneeling and sitting left to right, Angeline Acain, Maki Kosaka, Kanako Takahashi, Mika Yakushi, and Tomoya Shiraishi.
Photo courtesy of Pauline Park
(click to enlarge)
On September 4, 2013 Gay Parent magazine (GPM) had the pleasure of meeting with the group, LGBT Youth Japan. The group is a Tokyo based organization educating Japanese youth about the LGBT support systems employed by other countries. Their goal is to help guide Japan towards becoming a society whose members embrace diversity and “can accept and love each other for who they really are inside.” The group was in New York City on a 10-day study tour meeting with a variety of LGBT organizations and businesses and included Gay Parent magazine in their itinerary.
GPM publisher/editor Angeline Acain met with LGBT Youth Japan staff Ryoichi Ando to organize a meeting and the group met at Acain’s home in Queens. Says Acain, “The Japanese group members were excited when I ordered pizza and delighted to hear from special guests Pauline Park and the couple Alison Polizzi and Amy Rothman who are parents to two young children.” Polizzi is also an editorial contributor to GPM and writes a blog (http://www.lifeisquirkie.blogspot.com/). Park is a transgender activist, co-founder of Queens Pride House, the LGBT Community Center in Queens and New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy, the first statewide transgender advocacy organization in New York. Park negotiated inclusion of gender identity and expression in the Dignity for All Students Act, a safe schools bill enacted by the New York State Legislature in 2010, and the first fully transgender-inclusive legislation introduced in that body. She also served on the steering committee of the coalition that secured enactment of the Dignity in All Schools Act by the New York City Council in September 2004. In 2005, Park became the first openly transgender person chosen to be grand marshal of the New York City Pride March. Park came to the meeting with friend Asher Sullivan; Sullivan spoke of his experience as a young transman growing up in Vermont. Acain’s teenage daughter, Jiana, also spoke at the meeting giving her experience as a child being raised by lesbian mothers.
Eight members of LGBT Youth Japan attended the meeting, two did not want to be photographed and two wished to be identified only by their first name – the founder, Natsuko and member Yuriko. Staff included Maaya Kawahara, Mika Yakushi, Maki Kosaka and members included Ikumi Tanaka, Tomoya Shiraishi, and Kanako Takahashi. Yakushi is the founder of another LGBT organization in Japan called Rebit and told us, unlike America, transgender people in Japan are more visible and accepted than gays and lesbians. Natsuko said she was inspired to start the organization when she was a student living in Boston. The group consisted of those that identified as LGBT as well as allies and some were still not out to their parents. When asked when she knew she was gay, one of the Japanese youth replied, “I knew when I was in Kindergarten.” We also learned that there are gay parents in Japan but they do not live openly and that there is an organization for gay parents called Niji-iro Kazoku (Rainbow Family) founded by Hal Ono.
After the meeting Maki Kosaka said the following in an email to Acain, “It was absolutely great meeting you and hearing about your great work. It was really eye opening, we learned a lot and we’ll utilize as much as possible when we go back to Japan. Also your story about what “family” means to you really touched our hearts. Some of us really want to have a family but it’s very difficult in Japan. But meeting you and your daughter motivated us so much to keep trying to make a difference in Japanese society and ourselves.”
Click here to see subsequent meetings with Gay Parent Magazine and LGBT Youth Japan http://blog.gayparentmag.com/gay-parent-mag-happenings/for-the-3rd-year-gay-parent-magazine-part-of-japan-youth-study-tour