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Sexual minorities NPO, hotline, bar open in Nagoya

in JAPAN, 23/06/2012

A Nagoya resident with gender identity disorder has established a nonprofit group, hotline and dining bar in the city to support so-called sexual minorities and create an environment where they can interact.

"I want people to better understand the situation of such people so we can become a society that respects diverse sexual orientations," said Yuki Anma, 42, who was born male but has officially switched gender in the family register.

Anma, who is also a member of a local gender equality council, talked frankly about the gender dysphoria while growing up during a recent interview.

Those with the disorder experience extreme confusion over their biological sex and gender identity. As a junior high school student, Anma frequently tried out a sister's clothes in secret, never daring to mention this to family or friends.

After graduating from a university, Anma went to work for a political party and married in 1999.

The couple had three children together, but fathering them made Anma highly uncomfortable.

In 2004, a special law concerning people with gender disorder was enacted, resulting in an influx of information about the condition that for the first time made Anma feel "there was nothing wrong with the discomfort I was feeling."

Under the law, those seeking to change their gender in the family register must be aged 20 or above, unmarried and have no children.

They are also required to provide official diagnoses from at least two doctors.

The law was revised in 2008 to allow those with offspring to have the register altered, provided their children have reached adulthood. Anma decided to live as a woman the same year after consulting a medical specialist and attending gatherings of people dealing with the same issue.

Anma informed family members and friends before applying for the family register to be amended. Anma has since divorced, but remains on good terms with his former wife.

Eventually, Anma met and fell in love with a 28-year-old woman who "loved me back as a woman."

The pair held a ceremony earlier this month at which both wore wedding dresses.

Setting up a support system for sexual minorities was necessary because of prevailing societal prejudices and constraints that create many difficulties and obstacles for them, Anma explained.

This is especially true in the Tokai region, where there has been little progress in raising awareness among the public over such issues, accoording to Anma.

After quitting the political party, Anma established the nonprofit organization Proud Life with 70 friends last July and opened the Queer+s dining bar in Nagoya's Shinsakae district in December.

The purpose was to create a place for sexual minorities to expand their circle of friends and connect with the "outside world," Anma said.

The NPO set up the Rainbow Hotline in mid-May as there was no public consulting services available for sexual minorities. Those manning the phones have been trained to provide counseling and offer advice on legal or other problems, including physical abuse.

The hot line can be reached at (052) 931-9181 and is open every second and fourth Monday of the month, from 7 to 10 p.m.

The group chose the name Rainbow — a traditional symbol of diversity and inclusiveness among the gay community — in hopes of making society more accepting toward those with different sexual orientations.

"I am very glad I changed my identity to female," Anma firmly stated.

"Sexual minorities often think they cannot achieve the same happiness as other people, but everybody should have equal rights.

"I want people to realize that creating a society that values the minority will also benefit the majority."

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region  covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published June 8.

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