South Florida’s palm trees, sand and beaches were not the only things admired by a group of Japanese LGBT activists.
“I felt the passion of the LGBT community in Miami,” said Maki Kimura, president of Nijiiro Diversity in Japan, which promotes LGBT equality in the workplace.
Kimura, along with Roma Koiwa, a freelance writer for IG Press; Anri Ishizaki, a teacher at Ooike elementary school in Japan; Yuya Makizono, director of HACO Gay Men’s Health Information Center and Kazuyuki Minami, Japanese attorney, were in Miami last week to explore and examine local LGBT rights, laws and community support.
The trip was arranged by the Institute of International Education as part of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program.
Global Ties Miami administered the itinerary for the Japanese group locally.
“Global Ties Miami is the conduit for these future leaders to engage with their local counterparts,” said Annette Alvarez, the company’s executive director. “We are always looking for people and organizations in South Florida that are doing valuable work so that we might give them an opportunity to share their best practices with a wider audience.”
The activists arrived Friday, followed with a welcome dinner on Saturday with the committee of the World Out Games Miami.
Ivan Cano, chief executive officer of World Out Games Miami, believes sharing ideas of the community to foreign visitors is important.
“As a member of the U.S., we are blessed in the fight for equality because we are able to be open and honest,” Cano said.
The World Out Games Miami will be hosted in 2017, with events in sports, culture and human rights.
“This is a great opportunity where they can experience a united community and to inspire them to push for a change,” Cano said.
For Muraki, meeting the committee of the World Out Games Miami gave her ideas to promote it back home.
“We will hold a meeting in Osaka to let people know about the World Out Games Miami in 2017,” Muraki said. “I am interested in how mainstream organizations in America get involved in supporting this cause.”
The Japanese group also met with South Florida LGBT-rights group SAVE, which promotes community outreach, advocacy efforts and other initiatives.
Aurelio Hurtado de Mendoza, deputy director of SAVE, spoke about similarities of the LGBT communities in Japan and the United States.
“The difficulties that the trans community faces in Japan, specifically in assimilating in school, work and home, is exactly the same here,” Hurtado de Mendoza said. “I was struck with the similarities in the struggle and the desire they have to make life better for their LGBT community against long odds.”
Kazuyuki Minami, who has an openly gay law office in Japan, saw SAVE’s efforts in promoting local, state and federal policy as an important action to promote in Japan.
Minami and the group met with the Miami Beach Police Department and learned about the initiatives to build relationships between law enforcement and the LGBT community.
“I was very interested to meet the LGBT liaison for Miami Beach Police,” Minami said. “I will introduce the success and challenges of the Miami Beach Police to our bar association.”
The agenda for the week also included a meeting with the Miami Design Preservation League; Miami Beach attorney Elizabeth Schwartz; Jim Wilets, a NOVA Southeastern University professor; Pridelines Youth Services and Detective Juan Sanchez, the Miami Beach Police Department’s LGBT liaison.
“They gleaned valuable information that will help them when they return home and continue their efforts to make progress in advocating and working towards rights for the [LGBT] community,” Alvarez said. “They've been able to meet with people in Miami who have been at the front of advocating for human rights, others working with youth, and another group promoting a global sporting and cultural event.”
Follow on Twitter: @_DaniRiosG