National / Social Issues

Thousands rally to protest LDP lawmaker Mio Sugita’s remark calling LGBT people ‘unproductive’

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Thousands of angry protesters rallied on Friday night in front of the headquarters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, calling for the resignation of junior lawmaker Mio Sugita, who had earlier branded the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community “unproductive.”

Sugita is facing nationwide criticism over an article she contributed to in the latest issue of conservative magazine Shincho 45, in which she argued that taxpayer money shouldn’t be invested into policies supporting same-sex couples because “these men and women don’t bear children — in other words, they are ‘unproductive.’ ”

Many joined the rally after a hashtag went viral on social media encouraging people to gather and unite in a show of protest against the two-term lawmaker.

Participants wielded an array of signs and placards featuring rainbow colors — a symbol of LGBT pride — and chanted slogans demanding that Sugita quit, saying: “We don’t need a lawmaker who disregards human rights!”

Yumi Moriya, a representative of the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation, one of the groups involved in organizing the rally, claimed the turnout topped 5,000.

” ‘Unproductive’ is not a word you use to describe human beings — LGBTs or not,” said Rina Matayoshi, 26, who said she is a lesbian.

Matayoshi said the fact that the LDP has yet to unequivocally call out Sugita — let alone take punitive measures against her — is tantamount to the party condoning her remark. When asked about a backlash against Sugita earlier this week, LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai neither supported nor criticized her, saying “different people have different views.”

In the magazine, Sugita said the recent media tendency toward celebrating sexual diversity risks instilling in those “capable of enjoying normal romance” a misguided notion that “they have an option of going homosexual” and therefore increasing the number of “unhappy people.”

“So what, is she saying we’re abnormal or something?” Matayoshi said.

Another participant, 26-year-old Ame Kondo, said she was so hurt by Sugita’s comment — which she thought completely disregards the human rights of LGBT people — that “I couldn’t sleep well for a few days.”

“It felt like I was being told that I don’t deserve to be alive,” Kondo, who was born male, said, adding she is currently undergoing hormone therapy.

“The fact she can say these things so blithely means that she is denying the very existence of LGBTs.”

Mariru, a 21-year-old university student in Tokyo, said the productivity — or the lack thereof — shouldn’t be cited to determine the value of a human being in the first place. But she said she took notice of the disappointing way some people reacted to Sugita’s remark on social media.

“I realized some people were arguing that LGBT people, too, are contributing to the Japanese economy because they work and pay taxes like anyone else. But that way of thinking is actually the same as Sugita’s,” said Mariru, who wished to be identified only by her first name.

Huge applause broke out at one point during the hours-long protest when a woman came forward and shouted from the top of her lungs.

“I won’t let anyone stop me loving a woman!” the woman, who said she was a 22-year-old lesbian, screamed into the microphone.

“Everyone deserves to be alive! Everyone deserves to be loved unconditionally!” she said. “I have the freedom to live the way I want.”