2020 U.S. – Japan Rainbow Camp for LGBTQ Families
By Angeline Acain
Although Japanese LGBTQ families don’t share the same freedoms as Americans, there are organizations in Japan working to change that. Nijiiro Diversity and partner groups, Good Aging Yells and Nijiiro Kazoku are working to improve the lives of LGBTQ families in Japan. Established in 2013, Nijiiro Diversity was the first organization in Japan to address workplace issues for LGBTQ people and remains a leader in LGBTQ rights activism. In 2015, Nijiiro Diversity published, LGBTQ Guide for Workplaces, and in 2018 they published, Transgender Workplace Handbook. The group also provides research, educational training, and consulting, and has worked with universities, government agencies, and 160 corporations including Goldman Sachs, Nissan, Panasonic, and Sony.
In October 2021, the group’s organizers held an event originally called, 2020 US-Japan Rainbow Camp, targeting LGBTQ families and LGBTQ youth that are interested in raising children. The event was originally scheduled to take place in Osaka in October 2020. As founder of Gay Parent Magazine, Nijiiro Diversity had invited me to attend the camp, along with my wife, Susan, and adult daughter, Jiana, to speak and share our experiences as an LGBTQ-headed family. Due to the pandemic, my family could not travel to Japan to attend their event. Since we could not attend the camp, Susan and I contributed a short home-recorded video, that was presented to the camp attendees. In the video, Susan and I spoke about our parenting experiences. View our video message on Nijiiro Diversity’s website here, https://nijiirodiversity.jp/3171/. The organizers also presented at the event the March-April 2021 issue #135 of Gay Parent Magazine, then published it on the Nijiiro Diversity website translating it to Japanese, view it here, https://nijiirodiversity.jp/3128/.
Although my family and I were not able to attend, the speakers that presented were, Maki Muraki, Haru Ono, and Gon Matsunaka. Both Ono and Matsunaka have LGBTQ partners and children. All three are alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Program, an organization for social activism supporting LGBTs.
Maki Muraki is the director and founder of Nijiiro Diversity. Muraki has struggled as a lesbian in the corporate work environment. With her skills as a consultant, seminar leader, researcher, and licensed labor and social security attorney, she is a leader in the LGBT rights advocacy in Japan. Muraki has numerous awards including, the Google Impact Challenge Award (2015), Change-Maker Award by Nikkei Woman: Woman of the Year 2016, and Rookie of the Year Award by Nikkei Social Initiative Award. (2016) She is also the author of the LGBT Guidebook at Workplaces (2015) and the Transgender and Work Environment Handbook (2018). Muraki was the director of the host organization of the Rainbow Camp and oversaw the events and activities.
Haru Ono is the president of Nijiiro Kazoku (https://queerfamily.jimdofree.com/), an organization she founded in 2010. Nijiiro Kazoku supports and connects LGBT parents and their children throughout Japan. Ono has two children and a stepchild with her partner. Ono is a leading figure in Japan’s activism for LGBT family rights. Nijiiro Kazoku hosts seminars and events to spread awareness about LGBT families in Japan.
Gon Matsunaka is the president of Good Aging Yells, established in 2010, it is one of the oldest organizations supporting LGBT rights in Japan. On the Good Aging Yells website, https://goodagingyells.net, Matsunaka writes, “Good Aging Yells aims to create a place where people with various personalities, regardless of sexuality, age, nationality, or even experience, can feel comfortable and grow older in their own way.” Matsunaka’s work includes Pride House Tokyo, the first large-scale permanent LGBTQ center in Japan, and Out In Japan, a book of LGBTQ people in Japan photographed by Leslie Kee. Since 2018, Matsunaka is also co-parenting a child with a couple, a ciswoman, and an FTM transgender parent.
Through email, I chatted with Megumi Takai, fundraising coordinator for Nijiiro Diversity. I asked Takai about the Japan Rainbow Camp event.
Angeline Acain: Originally, the camp was to be held in October of 2020 but due to the pandemic the camp was held in October 2021—did the pandemic affect the number of participants that attended the camp?
Megumi Takai: The camp was originally planned to be held for a weekend in Osaka. But to avoid our participants traveling a long distance during the pandemic, we decided to hold the event in both Osaka and Tokyo on separate weekends. As a result, we were able to have more participants than we originally planned. The original plan was to have around 30 participants in Osaka, but with two locations we were able to have 30 to 40 participants in each event, around 60 to 70 in total. However, since an overnight event would not be appropriate during the pandemic, we had to schedule the event hours only during the afternoon.
Acain: What feedback did you receive from camp participants?
Takai: The feedback was generally very positive! Participants were LGBTQ+ families and LGBTQ+ youth. Some said that before the event, they did not even know that there were places where they could ask for advice about being an LGBTQ+ family. Therefore, people who participated as families said it was good to have a place where they can talk with other families in similar situations, share their experiences and give each other advice. Families enjoyed interacting with each other. Younger family members said it was a good experience for them to be able to talk with older family members. Children got together and played with each other. Most of the youth participants said the event helped them to find answers to the doubts they were having about having their own families in the future. One youth participant told us that they are relieved to see that
while there may be more obstacles to being LGBTQ+, LGBTQ+ families are just like other ordinary families.
Acain: Will Rainbow Family Camp be an annual event?
Takai: We still do not know if we will be able to have the rainbow camp again, but we are establishing an LGBTQ+ center in Osaka next year. It will be the first LGBTQ+ center in Western Japan, and the second in Japan besides Pride House Tokyo. We are hoping to continue conducting events targeting LGBQT+ families at our LGBTQ+ center!
For information on Japan Rainbow Camp visit, https://nijiirodiversity.jp/3655/