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Japan's first transgender prefectural assembly member elected in Hokkaido

Newly elected Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly member Ayako Fuchigami. (Mainichi/Kotaro Adachi)

SAPPORO -- Japan's first transgender prefectural assembly member has been elected in local elections here on April 7.

The new member, Ayako Fuchigami, was designated male at birth and transitioned to a woman as an adult. Fuchigami, who ran for the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, was elected to office for the first time in Sapporo's Higashi Ward constituency in Hokkaido, Japan's most northern prefecture. According to Japan's LGBT association for local representatives, Fuchigami's election marks the first time a transgender person has held a prefectural assembly position in Japan.

Fuchigami was born in Saga Prefecture and completed her postgraduate studies at Hokkaido University. In 2000 she began working at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. She researched rice grain capable of being farmed in cold locations.

Fuchigami first realized she was attracted to boys in her elementary school days, but didn't disclose her feelings for many years. This began to change a year after she left the ministry, when she made her debut working as a show dancer at a club in Sapporo's popular downtown Susukino district. Later she officially registered her first name as Ayako.

On April 8, the morning after the election result, Fuchigami expressed her commitment as a transgender public representative. "I want to return the favor to those who have supported me by working hard to create a society in which LGBT can be active.

Fuchigami resolved to enter politics after the suicide of a former colleague. She aims to change society's attitudes toward the LGBT community. During the election she campaigned for legal recognition of same-sex couples. She has also called for a framework that will allow LGBT to become more involved in education.

(Japanese original by Kotaro Adachi, Hokkaido News Department)

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