A small group of Japanese politicians came together last week to announce the formation of a new coalition dedicated to fighting for LGBT rights in the country.
One of the five politicians gathered at the event was 51-year-old Kunihiro Maeda, who used the opportunity to publicly come out as gay.
“LGBT people exist in any generation,” he said, according to Asahi Shimbun. “I hope my coming out will encourage people in my generation to take a courageous step. We have to enact changes to enhance the understanding of LGBT [people].”
Another was Aya Kamikawa, a trans woman who has represented the Setagaya Ward assembly in Tokyo since 2003.
“We need to change our society, including its system and awareness levels,” she told Japan Today. “We would like to work on what we can at regional levels.”
Maeda and Kamikawa were joined by Taiga Ishikawa, Tomoya Hosoda and Wataru Ishizaka at the event. The coalition is backed by 80 other politicians throughout the country, all of whom have promised to fight for total LGBT equality.
Though the subject of homosexuality is still somewhat taboo in Japan, the country has made great strides toward equality in the last few years.
This March, Japan’s education department updated its anti-bullying policy to include protections for LGBT students. And although marriage equality has not been legalized nationwide, several municipalities and two areas of Tokyo—including the Shibuya district—recognize same-sex unions.
In May, thousands gathered for Tokyo Rainbow Pride, a weeklong series of Pride events culminating in a march through the capital city.