Monday, October 17, 2005

Assemblywoman puts sex on the agenda

Lesbian politician Kanako Otsuji talks about gender issues in Japan

from the Japan Times:
In April 2003, 28-year-old Kanako Otsuji became the youngest person ever elected to the Osaka prefectural assembly when she won the seat for Sakai City. It was a distinction made more special by the fact that there were only six other women in the 110-member assembly at the time. However, another distinction was not known to most of the people who voted for her.

Otsuji is a lesbian. Though she did not keep her sexual orientation a secret, the supporters who knew talked her out of revealing this information during the campaign. She was even open about her homosexuality to individual local journalists, but none reported it.

After taking office, Otsuji knew that she wanted to come out. She spent two months writing a memoir, titled "Coming Out," which was accepted by Kodansha. She wanted the publication to coincide with the Tokyo Lesbian and Gay Parade 2005 on Aug. 13, where she planned to come out publicly. However, she felt some sort of obligation to her supporters in Sakai City, and on the day before the parade she held a press conference at which she revealed her sexual orientation.

On Aug. 30, Otsuji held her first meeting with supporters since coming out. She explained why she made the announcement, as well as the meaning of the term "sexual minorities" -- comprising lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender individuals -- and why she aimed to support them in her political career.

Following the meeting, Otsuji talked to The Japan Times about being an openly gay politician in Japan.
Read the interview here.

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