Two Japanese LGBTQ rights activists of different faiths find common ground


Buddhist monk Kodo Nishimura and Christian pastor Yoshiki Nakamura share a belief that LGBTQ lifestyles and organized religion can coexist, even when Japanese society makes people believe that finding such commonality is impossible. Often, LGBTQ people, like Nishimura and Nakamura, are seldom welcomed openly. That, plus personal experiences of exclusion, has been reason enough for many LGBTQ people and their communities to abandon religion altogether. But homophobia, in a country that has yet to legalize gay marriage, has not stopped these Tokyo-based LGBTQ religious leaders from doing what they are called to do — sharing the teachings of Buddha and Jesus, albeit in less traditional ways. “I don’t mean to convert anybody to being Buddhist. I use things like social media and fashion to reach people who are not really interested in Buddhism,” Nishimura said in a recent interview. “When I discovered Buddhism, it said everybody can be equally liberated. It was very empowering and I felt that I’m not inferior to anybody because I’m a homosexual. What matters is the soul. That message helps us protect our own rights.” Nishimura, who is also a professional makeup artist, does not like a lot of the words people use to describe his sexual identity because he lives as a man but feels he exudes both female and male energies. He calls himself gender-gifted.

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