HRC Global Innovator Fumino Sugiyama is a transgender activist who has been raising public awareness about transgender people since 2006. That’s one of the reasons he became involved in working Pride events in Japan.
“I felt more encouraged by participating in HRC’s Global Innovative Advocacy Summit. I was impressed that there are many advocates with the same motivation as mine across the world,” Sugiyama told HRC. “One of the most important things I learned is being an ally. I am keen on how we can help influential allies to be our supporters.”
In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and LGBTQ Pride Month, we celebrate LGBTQ API people around the world like Sugiyama who are bringing visibility to the API LGBTQ community through Affinity Prides, which celebrate the visibility of underrepresented communities.
In 2013, Sugiyama became the representative of NPO Tokyo Rainbow Pride after a recommendation from a friend. The turnout of Rainbow Pride in Japan, which started in 1994, grew to 200,000 this year from 4,500 in 2012.
“My mission as one of the co-representatives of Tokyo Rainbow Pride is meeting various actors ranging from the ordinary to experts of nonprofits, government, media or enterprises, expanding the number of advocates for our activity and formulating the ideal society that reflects various opinions from LGBTQ people in Japan,” he said.
Affinity Prides are especially important because they lift up LGBTQ people who live at the intersection of multiple marginalized communities and often face harassment, discrimination, stigma and violence on a number of fronts just because of who they are. Data from HRC Foundation and the University of Connecticut’s “2019 LGBTQ Asian and Pacific Islander Youth Report” showed that API LGBTQ youth are at heightened risk for discrimination.
Increasing visibility through Pride events is important, but advocates including Sugiyama know there’s more work to do. Sugiyama lives with his partner, who recently gave birth to their child through a sperm donor. He is not eligible to be legally recognized as a parent in Japan because marriage equality is not law.
“The understanding of LGBTQ rights varues dramatically recently in Japan,” Sugiyama said. “We would like to gather all of our energy and realize the society that enables LGBTQ and all the citizens to spend their lives freely.”