The Great East Japan Disaster and LGBT in Northeast Japan

Rainbow DRRM GuideOutRight's Regional Program Coordinator for Asia and Pacific Islands, Grace Poore, interviewed Azusa Yamashita, Research Associate at the Office for Promotion of Gender Equality in Hirosaki University; Co-Director at Gay Japan News; and organizer at Iwate Rainbow Network by email about a recent guide released in Japanese on her work with LGBT people in Japan on disaster and risk management.

Grace Poore: Why was this guide created?

Azusa Yamashita:
Iwate, my home prefecture (province) was one of the hardest-affected areas when earthquakes and tsunami hit Japan in March 2011. I was based in Iwate at that time (and still am.) My colleague and I had been talking about starting a local LGBTI group in Iwate because there seemed [to be] none. The Great East Japan Disaster pushed my colleague and I to start Iwate Rainbow Network eight days after the disaster because we could imagine gender non-conforming and non-heterosexual survivors would have specific needs during and in the aftermath of disaster because of gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression. We wanted to do something to help.

The Rainbow Network has had discussions on LGBTI needs in disaster and I shared them with various disaster risk reduction stakeholders when I was invited to give talks. At these talks, I was asked whether there was any easy-to-understand material on struggles and needs of gender non-conforming and non-heterosexual disaster survivors. There were many discussions taking place in different parts of the country on the topic but there was no such material. So, I decided to launch a project to create an inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) guide with my colleagues in Iwate. I pitched the project to a feminist fund and it got in. This is the background of this guide.

Grace Poore:Can you tell us about some of the work you have done with LGBT people in Japan on disaster and risk management?

Azusa Yamashita:
I have written and given talks on the struggles and needs of gender non-conforming and non-heterosexual disaster survivors both within and outside Iwate based on our experiences and discussions in Iwate. The audience of my talks included national and local government officials, lawyers, women's rights activists, medical professionals, academics, university students, leaders of neighborhood association, mothers and LGBTI activists. I was consulted by several women's groups in Japan when they created their DRRM guidelines. So, I gave advice. I have also presented on this topic at ILGA regional and world conferences together with activists who have done similar disaster work in disaster governance. We need to raise awareness on the issue SOGIE and disaster in prone countries because I believe it is rarely discussed in the global LGBTI community.

Here's the link to a key article I have written --available in English-- on this issue called, "Beyond Invisibility: Great East Japan Disaster and LGBT in Northeast Japan (FOCUS September 2012 Volume Vol. 69)."

Download the original guide in Japanese ยป