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Dive into Inclusion & Diversity Vol. 1 “Steps toward becoming a society where anyone can thrive as described by our LGBTQ guests”

Event Report

Date and time: June 18, 2021, 11:55-13:15
Method: online

Dive into Inclusion & Diversity is an in-house online seminar held every few months to update knowledge on inclusion and diversity (I&D).
This time, in honor of Pride Month in June, we invited two LGBTQ people to speak on the topic of “Steps toward becoming a society where anyone can thrive as described by our LGBTQ guests”.

This article features content from the seminar in digest format.

The speakers this time were Gon Matsunaka (President, Good Aging Yelles / Pride House Tokyo) and Mika Yakushi (Representative Director, ReBit), a graduate of NEC Social Entrepreneurship School. The talk session began with self-introductions from the two members.

“When I was in high school, I realized that if I had even one ally (a person who can understand me), I could be myself.”

Yakushi: I myself am transgender. I was born as a girl, but since I was a child, I felt uncomfortable with my gender, wondering if I was a boy. When I was in elementary school, I learned about the term transgender through a TV drama, but at the time, there was a lot of false information on the computer. I kept thinking, and saw information such as “I can't grow up,” “I can't do the work I want,” “I can't live in Japan,” and “I have to live like a girl so no one will ever find out.”

I hoped that if I acted like a girl, I could one day become a girl in my heart as well. However, as is medically accepted, gender identity cannot be forcibly changed. At school, I played the role of a bright, happy, girly girl, and every night I would cry myself to sleep thinking, “I'll never grow up if things are as they are.” In high school, I even tried to jump onto a train. That was when I decided to come out to everyone around me.

I cut my long, fluffy hair short, called my classmates one by one under a dogwood tree in the schoolyard, and came out for the first time. I couldn't stop crying, and it took me about 30 minutes just to say, “I think I am transgender.” But my friend who heard that told me without a pause, "You are you, so that's fine.”

It was the moment when I realized that if I had even one ally (a person who can understand me), I could be myself. After entering university, I came out as a transgender male and began to live my life. I was happy to realize that I could become an adult in my own way.

But at the same time, I wished I had realized that earlier. In my elementary school days when I didn't know myself, in my junior high school days when I pushed myself too hard, and in my high school days when I pushed myself to the limit, I wanted people to say, “You are fine just as you are.” From that formative experience, I founded ReBit as a university-recognized student organization when I was 20 years old, and began to speak about LGBTQ issues at schools.

My job hunting was a typical job hunting activity, in which I applied to about 50 companies and received job offers from two of them. One thing that made me different from others around me was that I came out to all the companies. Because I am still a woman on my family register, people would think, “What? You're a woman?” when I went in to submit my documents. Some companies said, “It doesn't matter what gender you are, it's fine,” while others sent me home within three minutes of starting the interview. I learned firsthand how important it is for a company to understand you in order for you to be able to work the way you want to work.

At the company I joined, I was given various considerations, was fortunate with colleagues, and was able to work in my own way. In the process, I became more and more interested in the idea of having more and more companies where people can work in their own way, and I left that company and became a representative director of ReBit, a certified NPO, where I speak to companies on a variety of topics.

I was told, “If there are many different people to whom you can communicate, there should be many different people on the communicating side as well.”

Matsunaka: It was in my upper elementary school years when I realized that I might like boys. At the time, I had no information at all, and I was always confused. When I was in junior high school, a character who is gay appeared on a TV variety show. When I first saw it, I was happy to know that “Oh, there is someone who likes men just like me.” However, this character began to be teased at school more and more.

I wondered why, and looked up the meanings of the words used in the character's name in the dictionary at the time. Then I found that both the Japanese dictionary and Imidas included “homosexual, abnormal sexuality, sexual perversion” as the definitions. Nowadays, of course, such descriptions have been deleted, but as a junior high school student, I was extremely shocked the moment I found the word “abnormality” in the definition. It was that moment when the world that had been colorful suddenly turned monochrome.

I never revealed my identity in high school or university, and in my senior year of university, I came out for the first time in Australia, where I was studying abroad. At the time, I was so nervous about saying the word "gay" that my heart almost skipped a beat, but the words that came back to me were, "Oh, I see.” I felt as if I was starting my own life for the first time, saying, “Oh, here I can talk about myself naturally like this...”

When I was thinking of going straight to work overseas, I happened to meet a Dentsu employee in Australia. The employee said, "It is very unusual for a Japanese person to come out as gay. Maybe you can make use of that in our company.” “What do you mean?” I asked. The employee said, “Our company is a communication company, and we are in the business of communicating something to someone. If there are many different people to whom we communicate, then there should be many different people on the communicating side as well.” It gave me hope that because it was amazing to have someone say t me, “That's something you can make use of in the future,” about something I had always thought was negative.

However, I was given the advice that, “The company and Japanese society are conservative, so you should never come out. Why don't you take the entrance exam for the job without coming out?" I successfully received a job offer in April 2001, and it was a bit over 16 years until I left the company in 2017. During that time, I came out as a gay man, and since then I have worked as both an employee of Dentsu and a non-profit organization called Good Aging Yelles.

On a personal note, I am currently raising a child. You may be thinking, “A gay person raising a child?” Actually, my best friend is a transgender man. He was born a woman, but has always identified himself as a man. His best friend, Fumino Sugiyama, has been living with his female partner for almost 10 years, but since they are both female on the family register, they cannot get married or have children. So I donated my sperm to Fumino's partner, and they now have two children, age 2.5 and 0. I take and pick up the children from daycare about three days a week and take them to the park on weekends. As a third parent, I am in the process of raising these children.

Corporate initiatives have changed dramatically over the past few years

The topic then turned to corporate initiatives. Matsunaka explained the Pride Index, which evaluates corporate efforts regarding LGBTQ issues, and told us that “corporate attitudes have changed dramatically over the past few years.”

Matsunaka: The Pride Index is a checklist of LGBTQ-related initiatives that can be implemented in the workplace. In FY 2020, 233 companies (more than 400 if group companies are included) entered the index. NEC has received the highest rating of Gold.

Matsunaka: Until about 10 years ago, the response was still "What is LGBTQ?" However, about five years ago, more and more companies began to regard LGBTQ as a human right and implement various initiatives. As Matsukura of your company mentioned at the beginning of this talk, in the past few years, an increasing number of companies have been aggressively promoting inclusion and diversity, including LGBTQ, as one of their management issues, based on the idea that “creating an inclusive work environment leads to new value creation and maximization of employee performance.”

In particular, I have the impression that many companies are focusing on recruitment activities and ensuring psychological safety in the workplace. For example, almost all universities in Tokyo have established LGBTQ-related clubs, and the number of students who have come out may be gradually increasing compared to the past. Given this background, I feel that in many cases, companies are carefully disseminating information for new graduates and focusing on creating a safe work environment so that there are no untruths after they join the company. I believe that increasing psychological safety within the company is very important for improving the performance of all workers, regardless of LGBTQ status.

What each of us can do when we want to be an ally

We now move on to the topic of allies who understand and support LGBTQ.
Matsunaka explained in an easy-to-understand way what each of us can do when we want to be an ally.

Matsunaka: First of all, I think we need to visualize what it means to be ally. I hope that you can express yourself as an ally in various ways, such as by wearing a rainbow badge or putting a sticker on your PC, because it is not something that can be known by thinking it in your mind. We would appreciate it if you could take some kind of action on top of that, if possible. For example, when there is alcohol involved, people may make jokes or laugh about LGBTQ issues.
There are four actions we can take when that happens.

  • A stopper that stops them, saying, "Let's not do this anymore."
  • A switcher that changes the subject to something else, saying, "By the way...”
  • A shelter that lets the speaker know that he or she is not the only one who was bothered by the harassment by saying, "I didn't like what was said earlier” when there is nobody else speaking out.
  • A reporter that reports what he or she saw at the scene of harassment.

Some companies require allies to serve as reporters. If you feel that maybe one of the people in the room is having a hard time, it would make me happy if you use your imagination and take some action in the way you can.

Start of QA session: What do you mean by “keep the eggs warm until they are ready?”

From here, it is time for the Q&A session. The two speakers and moderator Nakajima answered many questions from the employees.

Q: How should we react when someone comes out?

Yakushi: This is a question we receive very often. I will discuss four points.

Firstly, accept it by saying, “Thank you for telling me.” I hope that you will continue to have a good relationship with them as you did before they came out.

Secondly, ask, “Is there anything you are having trouble with?” Especially in the case of subordinates and colleagues at work, we would be happy if you could help them deal with any problems they seem to be having.

Thirdly, never talk to a third party without the person's consent. This is an act known as outing, and constitutes power harassment. There are cases where people talk with good intentions thinking that it is a good thing.

Fourthly, if you do not understand something, please ask. The more of an ally you are, the more you feel that you have to understand without asking, and there are cases where you can be judgmental in your response. However, each person has his or her own point of view on what is troubling him or her and the response he or she is seeking. I would be happy if you would listen to the person's wishes.

Q: There is someone around me who I think may be LGBTQ. How should I interact with them? Is it best not to say anything?

Nakajima (moderator): May I answer this question? Actually, I am a transgender person myself. I always use a chicken egg as an analogy for this question. With a chicken egg, when the chicks are ready to hatch, they give a signal from the inside, "knock-knock," and the parent hen who hears the signal helps break the eggshell. Coming out is similar to this. When people are ready, they will give us a signal. When this happens, we hope you will engage in dialogue. On the other hand, if the eggs are broken before the signal is heard, they will be crushed as raw eggs and the chicks may not emerge. In other words, I believe that the best thing that people can do is to keep the eggs warm. There are various concrete actions that can be taken to keep the eggs warm. One thing is stating that you are a ally, and if you feel that your eggs still need more information, it may be helpful to place LGBTQ-related books where they can find them, or to watch TV or movies together. We hope that you will continue to keep the eggs warm until they are ready to hatch.

Q: I am raising a child. What can I do to avoid imposing girlish or boyish attitudes on them?

Matsunaka: For questions about gender, I ask myself, "Is this really a necessary question? and "Is this information important for this child?, and" I try to stop and think about it, and I ask the question after that if I think it is better to ask. I also always try to think about what the child wants to do, regardless of whether the child is a girl or a boy. This means putting the emphasis on the child, not on myself. Parents tend to push their children to be like one thing or to achieve happiness in a certain manner. But that is just the image of happiness from the parent's point of view. Only the child knows what makes him or her happy, and I try not to forget that.

Q: What do you usually keep in mind as a leader in order to respect diversity?

Yakushi: I try to be very careful about my own unconscious bias. If I feel like I had an unconscious bias in what I just said, I try to be honest and say, “That was not a good thing to say, I'm sorry.” When people around me point out something, I say, "Thank you," and express my gratitude for being made aware of it.

I also believe that a workplace with a high level of psychological safety is created through daily efforts. It is really a series of small communications such as looking people in the eyes and saying hello or stopping and listening to what people have to say when you are asked for a moment. I want to build a relationship with everyone in the office so that they can talk honestly with me when something goes wrong. That's what I'm trying to do every day, even though I still have a ways to go.

Everyone can be someone’s ally!

After the QA session, we asked the audience to write an ally declaration and ally actions you can take today online.

Comments from participants

Employees who viewed the video commented things such as, “From now on, I want to act with consideration for the way each member of my workplace should be and for diversity,” and “It made me rethink the importance of paying attention to prejudices that I am not aware of in myself.” The event provided a valuable opportunity to deepen understanding of LGBTQ issues and at the same time to think about what they themselves can do toward a society where everyone can shine in their own way.

Speaker profile


In 2010, established a non-profit organization. In 2013, selected as a trainee for the International Visitor Leadership Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, where he conducted research on LGBT-related organizations and government agencies. Is a director of Marriage for All Japan, a general incorporated association. In 2016, he received the Youth Leader Award at the 7th Youth Power Awards. In 2017, he left Dentsu. In addition to past activities focusing on creating places that connect LGBT people and society, he is also involved in Pride House Tokyo and other projects.

Gon Matsunaka / President, Good Aging Yelles and Pride House Tokyo
Gon Matsunaka
President, Good Aging Yelles and Pride House Tokyo

While a student, he founded the predecessor of ReBit as Re:Bit, a student organization recognized by Waseda University. Aiming for a society where all children, including LGBT children, can become adults as they are, he provides training related to LGBT in government, schools, and companies, and serves on various committees. He also provides career support to LGBT people as a social worker and nationally certified career consultant. He is a recipient of the Human Power Award, a youth version of the National Medal of Honor. Selected as a member of the Global Shapers Community (GSC), the world's young leaders chosen by the World Economic Forum (Davos Forum).

Mika Yakushi / Representative Director, ReBit
Mika Yakushi
Representative Director, ReBit


They have been involved with ReBit since the organization's inception, and have been involved in training, event planning, and other activities to communicate about diverse sexuality. After graduating from university, they worked as a sales representative and a section manager of a sales planning department in a private company. They later majored in sociology at a graduate school in order to study issues surrounding diverse sexuality more deeply. They hold a master's degree in sociology. Currently, while being in charge of human resources, organizational development, and business promotion within the organization, they are responsible for providing training and consultation to companies and government agencies, supporting job hunters and job seekers, and training career supporters, with the goal of realizing work that is true to oneself for everyone, including LGBT people.

Jun Nakajima / Business Division General Manager, ReBit
Jun Nakajima
Business Division General Manager, ReBit