Every year, contestants from all over the world participate in the Mr Gay World competition to act as LGBT representatives of their respective countries while advocating for LGBT equality. There is no age limit for this highly publicised event and the international delegates are judged on a point system for components such as social responsibility as well as a swimsuit contest.
This year’s grand final in early May will be held in Cape Town, South Africa. But before the final competition, there will be a local round in Tokyo to determine the Mr Gay Japan winner who will represent the country at Mr Gay World 2019. There will also be a separate contest for the Best Social Media award, where members of the public can vote for their favorite contestant by liking their photos on the official Mr Gay Japan instagram page.
Before the finals this Sunday, let’s take a look at the finalists who are competing for the Japan crown.
Takumi came out to his mother last July, but she didn’t accept his identity the way he would have liked her to. Part of his motivation for joining this competition is his desire to accomplish as many things as possible to make his mother proud of her gay son.
Whilst his own understanding of LGBT issues is stronger than before, Takumi recognises there is still a large generation gap when it comes to what is deemed normal and acceptable to society, and he hopes to show his mother a better perspective on what it means to be a member of the LGBT community today. Besides his agenda to create change within his family, Takumi is also advocating for same-sex marriage rights in Japan as well as the right for same-sex couples to adopt children.
For Akira, this competition is a valuable opportunity to embrace his individuality whilst increasing LGBT visibility in Japan. With this platform, he is striving to promote diversity in physical appearance as well as sexual orientation, with the goal of inspiring people to recognise the ways in which they are unique. He is also challenging the different ways we tend to label and classify each other, and hopes that there will be a day where society can reach a level of acceptance where there are fewer labels used to identify each other.
Tiger’s experience of being bullied and the struggles he faced as an openly gay man in his youth have led him to become a fierce advocate for the LGBT movement in Japan. He’s determined to educate the younger generations about LGBT issues, in hopes of combating stigma and creating a safer environment for LGBT youth in schools. Tiger spoke about gay discrimination in schools in an interview by TV Asahi and also corresponded with Human Rights Watch regarding his observations on the gay rights movement in Japan. In addition, he has also given speeches at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Moa runs his own YouTube channel in which he chronicles his life as a gay man in Japan, with the aim of increasing LGBT visibility. His coming-out videos featuring his parents were among the first few uploads. Three years on, he has gained a strong following of supporters who subscribed to his videos, which not only educate people on LGBT related matters but also feature fun vlogs of everyday adventures, often with his boyfriend. Having spent some time living in Toronto, Moa often compares the differences in culture and attitude towards the LGBT communities in Canada and Japan. Hence, his platform appeals to both Japanese and international audiences.
Tired of seeing gay people misrepresented on Japanese television, Benson is pushing for a more accurate portrayal of the LGBT community in Japan. Whilst there are many LGBT personalities in the media, they are often encouraged to play caricatures of themselves for entertainment. As a result, the community is perceived to be part of the entertainment industry as opposed to real-life individuals in Japan’s everyday society.
Benson is driven to show people what real-life LGBT individuals look like and show that the community is built of more hard-working, dignified individuals than the media allow. He hopes Japan’s participation in this competition will help create a society where people can be openly and comfortably gay outside of the media industry.