People who have been reading this blog for a while may remember that there was a scandal a while back when the Shintō Seiji Renmei, the political campaigning organisation closely linked to Jinja Honchō, distributed a leaflet to members of the Diet that included a summary of a speech saying that LGBTQ people were mentally ill.
The January 30th issue of Jinja Shinpō includes an article on a couple of training sessions held online by the Osaka Prefecture Shinto Youth Association and Prefectural Shintō Seiji Renmei. One was on SDGs, while the other was “LGBTQ for Beginners”. As normal, they got someone in from outside to talk about each topic.
The person they brought in for LGBTQ was the transgender head of an organisation that creates inclusive spaces. They talked about LGBTQ in general, and about their own experiences, stressing the difficulties they face in everyday life, and what they are doing to promote understanding of diversity. I know that this person, Sugiyama-san, is transgender because the article specifies that the gender of their heart and the gender of their body are not the same. (This appears to be the standard phrasing in Japanese — I have come across it in several places.) Because Sugiyama-san identifies as trans (toransujendaa), and Japanese does have terms for non-binary, I think that one is probably male and the other female, but I have no idea which is which. Japanese makes it very easy to fail to specify that; Sugiyama-san’s given name is not gendered, and the article, as is normal, does not use any gendered pronouns.
This course has been written about in exactly the way that local training sessions are normally described. I don’t imagine that Osaka jinja are now full of LGBTQ activists, but their assumption, and the assumption of Jinja Shinpō seems to be that there is nothing unexpected about inviting someone from that community to explain the topic.
I doubt that this event will become noticeably controversial within the Shinto community, because it is much more in line with the general attitude I have encountered than the talk that became widely controversial. Priests are not outspoken in support of any groups or minorities, but tolerating and welcoming all groups is an important part of the self-image of Shinto. Indeed, it would not surprise me at all if this talk was organised in response to the one that caused the scandal, to reinforce the idea that jinja should be tolerant.
As much as it shouldn’t be, seeing a talk on LGBTQ at an organization actually being presented by a member of that community is nice.
“Japanese does have terms for non-binary”
Out of curiosity, what are some of those? If it’s not a much bigger question than I am imagining.
Terms I have heard include “gender free” and “X gender”.
As an queer person and a shinto enthusiast, I appreciate you covering this topic. Thank you.