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Tokyo 2020 Olympics

LGBT visibility grows in Japan ahead of 'diversity' Olympics

Athletes coming out despite ruling party failure to pass discrimination bill

Fumino Sugiyama, left, a former female fencing Olympian who came out as a man, and professional soccer player Shiho Shimoyamada, who came out as gay in 2019. (Screenshots from seperate Nikkei Asia interviews).

TOKYO -- Fumino Sugiyama, a former female fencer for the Japan women's national team who came out as a man more than a decade ago, last week became the first transgender board member of the Japan Olympic Committee.

Speaking with Nikkei Asia less than a month from the start of the "Unity in Diversity" Games, Sugiyama said that LGBT athletes rarely speak up about their sexuality because they fear negative reactions from fans and sponsors.

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