Gay Politician Ken Togo Makes Appeal On Politics, Freedom, And Sex

Ryann Connell

Japan's leading sexual minority politician tells Spa! that his path from "pillow biter" to "freedom fighter" shows there's no love in Japanese politics.

Japanese society has long prided itself on being homogenous, but has for a long time bordered on homophobic. Now it's slowly embracing sexual minorities, and there is a growing number of openly transsexual and homosexual politicians; but it wasn't always this way.

Ken Togo ran in 14 elections from 1971 through to 1995, openly and aggressively campaigning as a gay during an era when homosexuality remained well and truly in the closet.

"I was the only one in the political world at the time who ever openly disclosed being an okama," Togo tells Spa!, using to describe his preference the somewhat derogatory Japanese term for gay that is roughly akin to the English "faggot."

It's common for Japanese politicians to campaign by riding around the streets in a loudspeaker van with a policy message (or more likely the candidate's name) shouted out repeatedly. In his early campaigns, Togo's catchcry was "I'm the faggot. Ken Togo the faggot." Spa! notes Togo's other policy slogans included "I love cocks" and "Slip one in for Ken Togo," a message that could suggest voting for the gay campaigner or, well, something a little different.

Perhaps not surprisingly given the full frontal approach of his campaigning, many people saw Togo was a weirdo, or, more alarming in conformist Japan, a henjin, or "different person." Though now recognized as a harbinger of better fortunes, even large sectors of the gay community once hated Togo because they believed his approach further alienated them from mainstream society, which tended -- and sometimes still tends -- to view all political homosexuals as militant.

Togo was unrepentant, though, and in 1977 formed the Zatsuminto -- the Crude People's Party.

"Gays weren't the only people discriminated against. Lesbians, the disabled, entertainment industry workers, they're all discriminated against," Togo says. "Until all discrimination and segregation are eliminated, there's no true liberty of equality."

Togo struggled to find much support throughout his political career, a fate that seems to have baffled him but one he has come to terms with.

"What's wrong with a man loving a man? I think it's far more shameful to live a life while lying to yourself. What's truly shameful is not ever being loved," the 74-year-old says. tells Spa! "I'm too old for politics now. If I ever get the chance now, I wouldn't mind talking about what love is, and what discrimination is. I've got my bar now (in Shinjuku's Golden Gai). I've had it since January. This is the stage where I'll play out the last few acts of my life."

Togo sees current Japanese politics as a heartless wasteland.

"There's no love in Japanese politics. There's nothing shameful about standing around holding each other's cocks," the veteran gay rights campaigner tells Spa! "A society that criticizes people for loving people isn't much of a society. We need more love. It's clearly far more important to have sexual politics with love than it is to just have plain politics."

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: