Good Aging Yells

Good Aging Yells, a certified non-profit organization, conducts activities such as gathering at cafes, shared housing and events with the aim of creating a world where LGBTQ+ people can age together in enjoyment. This time, we interviewed Matsunaka-san, the representative of Good Aging Yells.

Please tell me how you established the NPO and started activities.

In 2010, we established the NPO Good Aging Yells (later became a certified NPO). We aim to create a safe and secure space where people with various individualities can live comfortably and in their own way, regardless of gender, age, nationality, or even experience.

Event commemorating the publication of "Tobitate!" a book on LGBTQ+ students held at the British Embassy

Now that I think about it, what inspired me to change my life was coming out for the first time when I was studying in Australia. When I was a child, I grew up in the Hokuriku region, where traditional Japanese values were very important, and there were times when I denied my feelings, saying that I still didn't understand myself. I focused on sport club activities, and even when I was a university student in Tokyo, it was common for me not to unveil my true self. During the two years I spent studying in Australia, I first came to know how comfortable it was to be myself, and I experienced a society that naturally accepted me as I was, which later became the driving force to establish the NPO.

While working for a major advertising company, I had an opportunity to spend six months of overseas training at an New York event company . I was involved in events organized by major local NGOs and NPOs. In 2013, I was invited to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and visited 5 cities in the US, where I had the opportunity to experience initiatives to solve social issues through the participation of government, corporations, and NPOs. I visited a permanent LGBTQ+ center and believed that Japan needed a safe and secure space; this led later to the establishment of the Irodori Colorful Station that opened in Jingumae 2-chome, in Shibuya Ward. It was also inspired by the Pride House set up for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Many sports are divided into men and women competition; discrimination and prejudice against LGBTQ+ people in sports is so strong that it is considered the final frontier. The idea of setting up Pride House in Vancouver has been spread across the world, and since then, Pride Houses has been opened all over the world. This made me think it could be done at the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

At that time, although I continued my activities with the NPO, my stance of working for a company as my main business did not change. However, in 2016, when the Hitotsubashi University outing incident occurred, I began to think that there was something I could do more, even though I was wearing dual hats and in July 2017 or the following year, I shifted my focus to NPO activities.

“Pride House Tokyo 2019” was opened during the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. The following year, in 2020, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games Organizing Committee established Pride House Tokyo Legacy as the world's first officially recognized Pride House. At the start of the pandemic, with the Tokyo Games in jeopardy, young LGBTQ+ communities were increasingly saying that they did not feel safe living with the people they lived with (such as family members), while they were being forced to refrain from going outside, that they had lost space and connection, and that they felt there was no space for them to feel safe and secure. Therefore, with the support of 15 sponsoring companies, we decided to establish it ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games postponed to the following year. Japan's first permanent LGBTQ+ Center opened on October 11, 2020 to coincide with International Coming Out Day.

How are the FIT donations used?

We use FIT donations in areas where multiple minorities persist. Pride House Tokyo Legacy aims to create a safe and secure space for everyone to spend their time, and to promote understanding of the difficulties faced by those in multiple minorities. In addition to Youth Day and Trans Day, Deaf Day is held on the third Saturday of each month. Deaf staff are invited to attend to visitors and provide an inclusive space where they can obtain information about LGBTQ+ people in Japanese sign language. It is an activity to give visibility to the perspectives and issues of multiple minorities, and I hope that it will be an opportunity for those in multiple minorities (deaf and LGBTQ+) to have a successful experience as an agent for social change.

In addition, in sports, the origin of Pride House, we started our activities at the time when the bid for the Deaflympics was being held, and we are building momentum for the 2025 Tokyo Games. New language needs to be incorporated into sign language all the time, for example, language related to LGBTQ+ tends to be used by only those concerned, but we are helping to expand knowledge to those who use sign language as their first language and sign language interpreters so that they can express themselves appropriately without discrimination. Through events and workshops, we conduct activities to visualize and raise awareness about these issues. We have also started to use sign language and picture-in-picture editing in videos on our NPO’s activities.

What kind of activities do you plan to expand in the future?

Good Aging Yells will continue to disseminate information such as OUT IN JAPAN. On the other hand, through the end of March, Good Aging Ales had been the secretariat for the activities of Pride House Tokyo. In order to make the activities more sustainable, in February 2023 Pride House Tokyo was incorporated as NPO and the secretariat was transferred from April 1. We have strengthened our system through a change of leadership and incorporation, and we have also begun efforts to establish links with organizations that are creating spaces for belonging across the country, such as Osaka, Himeji and Kanazawa. We will promote this as a safe and secure social space for LGBTQ+ people that anyone can visit, and a base from which we can communicate our efforts to bring about changes in social issues.

What kind of support can we provide?

I would like various people to visit Pride House Tokyo Legacy just once. It is open five days a week and features LGBTQ+ information and hospitality. It can be used for various purposes, such as deepening understanding through various events and content related to diversity, and as a forum for sending out meetings and online meetings of ERGs of supporting companies. There are many opportunities for parents and children to drop by, and there is a large collection of books about LGBTQ+ including picture books In addition to providing training, talk shows, and networking opportunities, we also provide counseling services for LGBTQ+ people, family and friends.

October 11, 2023 marked the third anniversary of the establishment of Pride House Tokyo Legacy, and from the evening of the 18th, an anniversary party was held at TRUNK (HOTEL) where activities were reported and exchanges held. We took this opportunity to further expand our awareness and aim to create a society in which all people can live comfortably and with peace of mind, without being left behind by their sexual orientation.

What has been difficult and good about continuing NPO activities?

It is quite difficult to make NPO your main business and make a living. It may be difficult to attract staff and activities aimed at solving social issues require labor, expertise, and funds. In particular, since our social issues deal with human rights, it is difficult to create a business model that enables people to be paid for their work, something that is easier in other fields. However, I believe that companies, charities, and people with energy and passion can work together to create visibility and have ownership. I feel that the situation in Japan is changing little by little through our activities. For example, I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of my colleagues expressing themselves more naturally in their activities. I don't think that coming out itself is a must, but it seems that more people are talking about themselves to their team members or trusted colleagues than before, and I think that the safe zone is expanding in their lives. We are working to solve problems in society, but at the same time, it is deeply moving to witness the changes in the people close to me.

Representative Matsunaka-san (center) and FIT2023 Organising Committee members (from left) Kiritani-san, Shima-san, Kida-san and Yamamoto-san

Certified non-profit organization Good Aging Yells