Saturday, December 16, 2017

Happy Birthday to Japanese Politician, LGBT Rights Activist Kanako Otsuji

Kanako Otsuji was born today, December 16, in 1974. She is a Japanese LGBT rights activist and member of the House of Representatives for the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. She is also former member of the House of Councilors.

She was also a member of the Osaka Prefectural Assembly (April 2003–April 2007). One of only seven women in the 110-member Osaka Assembly, Otsuji represented the Sakai-ku, Sakai City constituency. In May 2013, after her party member of the House resigned, Otsuji became the nation's first openly homosexual member of the Diet, but her term in office expired in July.

As a schoolgirl in Kobe, Otsuji was an Asian Junior karate champion, then later enrolled at Seoul University to study Korean and tae kwon do. She had hoped to go to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 but was unsuccessful in making the national team. She returned to Japan and enrolled at Doshisha University in Kyoto, where she first became interested in politics.

Otsuji stood for election as an Independent in April 2003, at 28 becoming the youngest person ever elected to the Osaka Assembly. In May 2013, when the incumbent member resigned, Otsuji became the first openly homosexual Diet member. As Otsuji did not run in the 2013 House of Councillors election, she left office at the end of the term in July.

Otsuji returned to the Diet in October 2017, this time to the more powerful House of Representatives. She contested Osaka's 2nd district for the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP). Despite finishing third in the district, she obtained a sufficiently high proportion of votes to be returned through the CDP list for the Kinki proportional representation block. Her election is another wateshed for the Diet as she became the first openly gay House of Representatives member in history. As of today, she is again also the only openly-gay Diet member.

In August 2005, Otsuji published an autobiography, Coming Out: A Journey to Find My True Self, and in doing so came out as Japan's first lesbian politician, the day before 2005 Tokyo Pride.

In 2005, Otsuji was instrumental in bringing about a legislative change that allows same-sex couples to rent housing from the Osaka Prefectural Housing Corporation, a privilege previously reserved for married couples. Since same-sex marriages are not recognized under Japanese law, gay couples in Osaka had previously found it impossible to rent public housing.

In June 2007, Otsuji held a public wedding ceremony in Nagoya with her partner Maki Kimura, although same-sex marriages are not legally recognized in Japan.

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