/

Sexual minorities expand mutual support amid lack of legal backing

by Sawako Obara

Kyodo

Sexual minorities are stepping up mutual support for when their partners die and their relationship is not legally recognized.

Two gay men in their 30s, Daisuke and Tsuyoshi, both pseudonyms, were living together in a condominium while running their own businesses. One day Tsuyoshi collapsed while driving and was taken to a hospital.

Daisuke received a phone call from the rescue team as his name was on Tsuyoshi’s cellphone log. He was not provided with detailed information on Tsuyoshi’s condition because he was not a member of his family. Tsuyoshi subsequently died.

Because the couple had not told their families and friends about their relationship, Daisuke attended Tsuyoshi’s funeral merely as a friend. In addition, the condo and other assets owned by Tsuyoshi were taken over by his family.

Doctors usually only explain a patient’s condition to family members, while even when there is a will naming a nonrelative as the beneficiary, family members are still legally entitled to inherit some of the assets.

People are considered a sexual minority if their sexual orientation, gender identity or sexual character is different from the majority of the surrounding society.

“Young homosexuals can live without any problem,” says Kanako Otsuji, a lesbian and former Upper House lawmaker.

“But they recognize they have no support when they face the question of disease and death. As more homosexuals, younger than 50, disclose their sexual orientation and then opt not to marry, many of them may suffer” from the absence of support in the future, she warns.

In January, gay lawyers Kazuyuki Minami, 36, and Masafumi Yoshida, 35, opened a law office in the city of Osaka to help sexual minorities address legal problems. They met when they were graduate students at Kyoto University and held a wedding ceremony in 2011.

The two opened the law office to support sexual minorities “from the same standpoint,” Yoshida said.

They often receive inquiries from sexual minorities worrying if their partners can inherit assets belonging to them if they die. The lawyers, for their part, have written wills designating the other as his heir.

Sexual minorities in Tokyo established a nonprofit organization, Good Aging Yells, for mutual support in 2010.

“We were constantly concerned whether we could live in a nursing home, when necessary, in the future, while hiding our homosexuality,” said Gon Matsunaka, a 37-year-old employee of a major advertising agency and leader of the NPO.

Good Aging Yells opened a group house for gays in March, which was immediately filled to capacity.

The NPO is considering building a home for elderly homosexuals in the future, but that sort of facility needs to be licensed.

“In addition to sexual minorities, unmarried people without children should be equally worried about what they should do when they need nursing care,” Matsunaka said. “We would like to be connected with people who can understand our concern.”