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The Development of Tokyo LGBT Pride (1994~2009)

Rainbow pride parade is not simply an event that celebrates sexually marginalized group, indeed it is an enthusiastic protest that assembles supporters who are willing to pursue equality and fight for legal right.

Discrimination, ostracization, and harassment, have always threaten LGBT community because of bias and intolerance toward diverse sexual orientation or gender identity. Human Right Watch, an organization advocate on human right, insisted that inadequate in gender education is one of the factor that induce rampant homophobic and transphobic incidents along with failure of policy which does not address to protect marginalized community. In recent years, social acceptance towards LGBT has been gradually growing. Myriads of LGBT institutions (The Tokyo Gay and Lesbian Deaf Rainbow Alliance, for instance) were established in Shinjuku Ni-Chome, and there are around 300 gay bar opened in Tokyo.

The International Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) , and Stonewall Japan together organized the first pride parade in Tokyo Ni-Chome, originally named as the Tokyo Lesbian & Gay Parade, in 1994. The event information was spread via gay magazine during the pre-internet era. People who participated the 1994 pride parade were inspired to launch a parade activating LGBT right in Sapporo. However, hostile strike and political entanglement had bungled the pride event in 1996, since then subsequent pride parades went unpromoted, number of participant had decreased, and the awareness of same-sex marriage protest had dwindled.

Pride parade had always been successfully launched in Sapporo, and the Rainbow March has become an annual public event there since 1999. A former HIV researcher, Hideki Sunagawa resumed a gay pride march in Tokyo in the next year. The venue for the Tokyo Gay & Lesbian parade was in Shibuya district, and then the parade continued in two subsequent years. It gathered more supporters by raising public awareness and delivering spiritual expression of equality and freedom pursuance. A year after TL&GP parade in Tokyo, Shinjuku Ni-Chome Promotional Committee also hosted a LGBT pride known as Tokyo Rainbow Matsuri as a gay village celebration.

Arguments had divided TL&GP organization into segments. Whether to politicize pride parade is a concern since there were only few political figures had involved the event, and the other concern is that some sexual minorities felt discriminated by the label of Lesbian & Gay pride. From 2007, TL&GP become todays “Tokyo Pride Parade.” The first “Tokyo Pride Parade”, which also known as the “6th parade”, was historically the significant one due to its overwhelming attendance record. Ni-Chome was as busy as ever, filled with wondrous excitements and enthusiastic participants. However, politicization debate once again resolved the executive committee thus the pride parade in 2008 was canceled. Though 2009 pride event did take place across Yoyogi Park, there weren’t a parade and attendance was scarce.

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