As we commemorate the 35th anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk, our recent trip to Japan to speak about marriage equality made clear how Harvey’s call to come out is just as important as ever.
Significantly fewer LGBT Japanese have come out than their American counterparts, and LGBT Japanese are a much less visible part of society and the media than in the U.S. The Japanese people we met gave us insight into how coming out in Japan is similar to, and different from, America.
One Japanese activist told us that he came out to his parents in high school after his first date with a boy, because he did not want to keep a secret within himself and wanted his parents to know him as he really was. His parents were very accepting. But another activist described how 20 years ago, his father and brother beat him when he came out and threw him out of the house. He found his way to the office of a Tokyo LGBT activist organization that let him sleep on their floor until he could get on his feet. He has now worked for that organization for over 10 years and is a leading advocate for people with HIV/AIDS in Japan.