Japan Opens First LGBT Athlete Support Center in Tokyo Before the Olympics

Pride House

Japan, in partnership with organizers of the 2020 Summer Olympics, opened its first-ever LGBT support center in Tokyo on Sunday.

Based on similar sites set up in previous Olympics, Pride House Tokyo Legacy serves as an information hub for sexual minorities, ensuring that “LGBT athletes, their friends and families, spectators and local participants are free to be themselves as they enjoy a diversity-themed Olympics.”

Pride House Tokyo occupies a 140-square-meter (1,507-square-foot) facility and offers a multipurpose space, a cafe area, a consultation booth and a collection of books tackling sexual minorities.

The program adds “Legacy” in its title as it seeks to create “a permanent safe space” for Japan’s next generation of LGBT youth, who may be instrumental in influencing future national policies.

 

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At present, Japan remains the only Group of Seven (G-7) country that does not recognize same-sex unions, though some local governments approve “partnerships.” These arrangements offer some benefits — from housing to employment — but they are still not legally binding.

And, like in many parts of the world, discrimination against LGBT members persists in Japanese communities, schools and workplaces.

“We’d like to provide new opportunities to let people learn more about issues including sexual minorities, education and sports,” said Pride House Tokyo head Gon Matsunaka, according to the Asahi Shimbun. “Sexual minorities are hard to recognize from their appearance, and they have been ridiculed and discriminated against.

“By raising awareness of the issue, I hope it will also lead people to pay more attention to those who suffer from other kinds of discrimination, such as ethnic and religious prejudices.”

 

The first Pride House opened in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. In 2014, Russia blocked the establishment of a similar center in Sochi, which eventually led to the creation of Pride House International.

Pride Houses have launched at London 2012, Rio 2016, PyeongChang 2018 and other sports events. However, Tokyo Pride House Legacy is the first to gain official recognition from the International Olympics Committee.

“In sport, we are all equal,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement, according to AFP. “We therefore welcome that Tokyo 2020 has embedded diversity and inclusion in the Olympic Games model.”

The program is realized by a consortium of 35 non-profit organizations and activists, 14 corporations, 19 embassies and multiple athletes and sports professionals. Its activities, which include assistance and seminars, are financed through dormant bank accounts made available and corporate sponsorship.

Feature Images via Pride House Tokyo Legacy

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