Participant march in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade on the streets of Tokyo, Japan. (Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A Japanese politician has apologised after referring to LGBT+ people as a “disease” during a discussion about school uniforms.
Toshikatsu Ehara, 63, a member of the Tomisato Municipal Assembly, made controversial comments during a local assembly question and answers session 1 September – one that he stressed was a mistake.
According to The Mainichi, a Japanese national newspaper, Ehara, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, was asked if the city was going to change local junior high school uniforms to be more considerate of LGBT+ pupils.
School uniforms in Tomisato, a city in Chiba Prefecture, have not been altered for at least the last 35 years.
Local assembly member calls LGBT+ people a ‘diverse disease’
But as assembly members considered letting students choose their own clothing, Ehara said: “As of now, there are a diverse range of problems about a disease, so to speak, or LGBTQ.
“The board of education and schools were unaware of the issue. There were times when people could not raise their voices, but they can now.
“There might be children who are not sure if they have such a disease or children who are worried about a disease that is only known to themselves.”
Seconds after making the remarks, Ehara, who has served in the city assembly for six terms, sought to have them struck from the record.
“I’d like to take back and correct my statement,” he said, “in which I described LGBTQ as a disease.”
“It was inappropriate,” Ehara said of the comments to The Mainichi on 8 September. “I’m sorry if my comment caused offense.
“The remark wasn’t what I intended. I was trying to sum up the fact that there are other children who are distressed about their diseases, but because I uttered my statements in succession, I ended up making the remark in question.”
Seemingly capturing Japan’s, at times, sluggish approach to LGBT+ rights, a spokesperson for the Tomisato Municipal Government told the publication that Ehara’s remarks are one of a “diverse” range of views.
“There exist opinions concerning diversity in sexuality,” they said.
“We’d like to consult with schools over the matter.”