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June Pride Month

By Tiffany Nakamitsu
For The North American Post

Tiffany at Seattle Pride 2023 June 3

AS MOST PEOPLE KNOW, June is Pride Month in the United States. For some of you who may be learning about this for the first time, “Pride Month is a month, typically June, dedicated to celebration and commemoration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) pride, observed in the Western world,” according to Wikipedia.

Pride Month began with the Stonewall riots, a series of riots for gay liberation that took place June 28, 1969. The riots began after a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar located in Lower Manhattan in New York City. The riots are widely considered the watershed event that transformed the gay liberation movement and the twentieth-century fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States.

Pride Month is not just about the rainbow flags that you see throughout June. It is not just about the festivities, like the Pride Parade. In keeping with its beginning as a riot, it’s a very visceral, emotional month for many people.

This includes myself.

In Nagoya, Japan, a homogenous city in a homogenous country, I discovered at the age of thirteen that contrary to voicing that I only had crushes on boys, I also liked girls. It was the biggest nightmare of my life to discover this at such a young age, growing up in such a homogenous place.

My only understanding of any alternative to being straight back then was being an “onnei,” which is considered a semi-derogatory way of describing a feminine gay man or trans woman. I remember thinking, “No, no, I’m not that. So I must be an anomaly to humankind.” There was no knowledge or representation whatsoever of a gay person who was not an “onnei” in my community in Nagoya.

In secrecy, I apologized to my ancestors in my Buddhist prayers every chance I could; I seriously thought something was inherently wrong with me. At that young age, surrounded by my religious family, I believed that the Buddha had somehow made me dysfunctional. I told no one about my thoughts… how could I?

The Japanese community in general has not been widely accepting of LGBTQ people. In fact, it’s so taboo that often family members will refuse to accept the LGBTQ identity of their loved one. When queerness applies to their own child, parents oftentimes would suddenly tell their own child to leave the family, to do a “dogeza” (contrite bow, kneeling on the ground) and hide in the closet, forever. How can that be?

The lack of knowledge in our community surrounding LGBTQ identities and experiences often leads to ignorance, and therefore, a lack of empathy even when it comes to loved ones.

For me, learning in college what being queer and bi means helped me finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I stopped apologizing. Mental liberation and a major confidence boost followed after meeting other queer students on campus.

For family members and friends, learning and having knowledge of what LGBTQ means and how to support a family member is… everything.

Japan is the only G7 country that has banned same-sex marriage, citing unconstitutionality. Accordingly, in 2021, nearly half of LGBTQ teens in Japan seriously contemplated suicide (“Japan Times,” “Mainichi Shimbun”). Japan has a notoriously high rate of suicide; in 2022, it had 21,881 deaths from suicide, making up 17.5 suicides for every 100,000 inhabitants (compared to 13.9 in the US; Statistica). That half of LGBTQ teens in Japan are seriously considering suicide, in a country known for its suicides, is gutting.

Have a kind heart and open arms when your friend or family member comes out to you as LGBTQ. Lesbians exist, gays exist, bisexuals exist, transgender people exist, etc. It is not a phase. Your child is opening up to you because they trust you. Trust them back. Don’t be the first bully to cut off their wings, when they have the capacity to flourish under acceptance and empathy.


(This is a social media hashtag, which fosters web cross-referencing.)

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Tiffany Nakamitsu
Tiffany Nakamitsu is a bilingual marketer at SeekOut, a startup that helps companies hire diverse talent for hard-to-fill roles. She also advises on the Board of Directors of Seattle Pride as Governance Chair and founded a Marketing & Communications agency to uplift Japanese small businesses in Greater Seattle. Before SeekOut, Tiffany earned a degree in International Studies from the University of Washington and an International Political Economy certificate from the one-year program of King’s College, London, UK. Email: tiffany.nakamitsu@gmail.com