Pride Month in Japan ended on a rather sour note when news hit the Internet of a booklet containing anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric that circulated at a June conference attended by several LDP members. The conference was hosted by the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership (Shinto Seiji Renmei; 神道政治連盟) affiliated with the Association of Shinto Shrines (Jinja Honcho; 神社本庁), an administrative organization overseeing 80,000 shrines in Japan. Aside from its mission of promoting Shinto rituals and tradition, the Jinja Honcho also has strong ties to numerous conservative parties, including the ruling LDP.
The 90-page booklet contained speeches and lectures on various issues, including same-sex marriage and the issue of married couples using separate surnames. The offending material in question comes from a series of lectures by a professor of religion at Hirosaki Gakuin University . He claimed that homosexuality is a mental illness that could be “cured” through therapy, specifically conversion therapy. As if that statement alone wasn’t harmful enough, he also attributed the high suicide rate among sexual minorities to their own unresolved issues rather than discrimination from society, and that their lifestyles “destroy families and society.”
Suffice it to say that it’s no surprise that some LDP members would agree with such backward thinking. Many have blamed LGBTQ+ people for Japan’s falling birth rate and called them unproductive. Yet it’s disturbing, if not surprising, that anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric continues to be disseminated in political circles when public support for LGBTQ+ rights is slowly rising.
Standing Up for Equality
Reactions were swift and full of outrage. The Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation released a statement condemning the booklet , and a Change.org petition demanding the LDP publicly denounce the booklet and halt its circulation currently has 38,000 signatures.  On July 4, organizers staged a “Stand for LGBTQ+ Life” protest outside LDP headquarters in Tokyo. Over 700 people showed up, with another 300 watching via Instagram Live. One of the organizers, Andromeda, shared how angry they were reading about the booklet’s anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. “If people questioning their sexuality, especially the younger generation, read this, they’ll be really hurt,” they stated. 
Some among the public have made their anger known, but what about those in the LDP themselves? Josei Jishin reached out to several LDP members for comments.  Current Digital Minister Makishima Karen decried the notion that homosexuality was an addiction needing treatment. Others said they didn’t attend the conference and declined to share their views, including Kono Taro. Mio Sugita also wasn’t present at the meeting and declined to comment (but given her history of spouting insensitive comments about LGBTQ+ people and no evident retraction of those sentiments, it’s not hard to imagine her stance). Prime Minister Kishida Fumio also declined to comment.
Society Goes One Way, National Politics Another
Sadly, it’s doubtful we’ll get a resolution anytime soon. To no one’s surprise, the LDP secured more seats in the Upper House on July 10th, which has many worried they’ll limit already perfunctory legal rights for sexual minorities. In June, an Osaka court ruled the country’s same-sex marriage ban wasn’t unconstitutional, dealing a major blow to LGBTQ+ activists.  Cities like Tokyo are establishing partnership systems, and numerous other municipalities have established localized recognization of LGBT marriages and partnerships. Yet, Japan as a whole still has a long way to go in recognizing equal rights for sexual minorities. The hurdles may be higher, but the fight for equality shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
What to Read Next:
 「同性愛は依存症」「LGBTの自殺は本人のせい」自民党議連で配布. Yahoo! Japan.
 【声明】神道政治連盟国会議員懇談会による「冊子」配布に対する抗議声明. LGBT法連合会.
 #自民党はLGBT差別冊子の内容を明確に否定してください. Change.org.
 「差別は人を殺すんです」。自民議員会合の差別冊子に、LGBTQ当事者らが抗議のデモ. HuffPost Japan.
 岸田首相、河野太郎氏ら自民議員5名「同性愛は依存症」冊子への見解は“ノーコメント”. Josei Jishin.