LGBT visibility grows in Japan ahead of ‘diversity’ Olympics

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07/06/2021

Fumino Sugiyama, a former female fencer for the Japan women’s national team who came out as a man more than a decade ago, last week became the first transgender board member of the Japan Olympic Committee. Speaking with Nikkei Asia less than a month from the start of the “Unity in Diversity” Games, Sugiyama said that LGBT athletes rarely speak up about their sexuality because they fear negative reactions from fans and sponsors. “I want to help Japanese sports circles to include diverse perspectives and have more athletes feel psychological safety,” Sugiyama said. As a transgender man, Sugiyama, now 39, said he felt the fear firsthand during his professional fencing career until he retired and came out at the age of 25. “I had been thinking that I cannot be who I really am, while being an athlete at the same time,” said Sugiyama, who added that he feared being exposed as a transgender person every time he heard homophobic remarks.

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