In what is being hailed as a historic first, Tokyo elected its first openly gay male politician to public office Sunday.
As the AFP is reporting, Taiga Ishikawa won a seat in Tokyo's Toshima Ward Assembly in local elections, and quickly drew attention to his victory's significance for the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
"I hope my election victory will help our fellows nationwide to have hope for tomorrow, as many of them cannot accept themselves, feel lonely and isolated and even commit suicide," Ishikawa is quoted as saying. "Many LGBTs, or sexual minorities, realize the fact when they are at elementary and junior high schools, many of which are operated by the municipality. As a ward assembly member, I would like to reinforce support to LGBT children at schools."
A former secretary to Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima, the 36-year-old writer and activist drew numerous comparisons to Harvey Milk in the weeks leading up to Sunday's polls. While he shrugged off the parallels to the legendary San Fransisco politician, Ishikawa nonetheless has vowed to take steps toward marriage equality, along with other civil rights aims, during his time in office.
"I know it's a big plan, but if elected, I hope I can enact a partnership ordinance that would allow unmarried couples regardless of gender to have equal rights as married couples," he told the Japan Times in March. "In Japan, gay people instantly know they shouldn't tell anyone about their sexuality...coming out as a gay is not easy in Japan yet. Homosexuals are perceived as strange, but I believe it is society that is strange."
According to the Japan Times, Ishikawa wrote frankly about his sexuality in his 2002 autobiography, Boku No Kareshi Wa Doko Ni Iru, or "Where Is My Boyfriend?" He also established "Peer Friends," a non-profit organization which hosts social events for gay men in Japanese cities.
As the Advocate reports, lesbian candidate Kanako Otsuji was elected to the Osaka prefectural assembly in 2003.