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Japan's first out
politician to run in national elections

Japan's first out
politician to run in national elections

Kanako Otsuji, Japan's first out gay politician, announced her decision to run in July's national elections as a challenge to government ignorance. Officials confirmed that Otsuji, 32, will be allowed to run on the Democratic Party ticket for the upper house of parliament. The election will be held on July 22.

In 2003, at age 28, Otsuji became the youngest politician to hold a seat in the Osaka prefectural assembly. She was also one of only seven women on the 110-seat body.

Halfway through her four-year term, Otsuji came out publicly with the publication of her autobiography, Coming Out: A Journey to Find Myself. Although she did not purposefully hide her sexual orientation during the election campaign, her aides persuaded her to not mention it to prevent controversy. Her decision to come out was met with support from voters, but Otsuji has faced ignorance and homophobia among her fellow assemblymen.

In a message on her Web site, Otsuji said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has failed to address sexual diversity within Japan.

"I think there is a tendency to put forward one set of values and make it seem as though that is the only beautiful or right way," Otsuji said to the U.K. newspaper The Guardian. "But the reality is becoming more diverse. Japanese society is not engaging with the wide range of people living in diverse ways, in terms of nationality, race, sex, age, and disabilities." (The Advocate)

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