A transgender former fencer hailed a “massive change” in Japan’s LGBTQ awareness after being appointed to the Japanese Olympic Committee’s board of directors just weeks before the Tokyo Games. Fumino Sugiyama, who was a member of Japan’s fencing team until retiring at the age of 25 and coming out, became the JOC’s first openly transgender board member on Friday. “There’s been a massive change if you compare it to 10 years ago,” Sugiyama, 36, told AFP. “The biggest thing that has changed is awareness. A lot of people had never even heard of the phrase LGBTQ just a few years ago, but it’s commonly used nowadays.” Sugiyama’s appointment comes less than a week after Japanese Women’s World Cup star footballer Kumi Yokoyama came out as a transgender man. It also follows a furore over sexist remarks by former Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori, who stepped down after claiming at a JOC event that women speak too much in meetings. The resignation sparked a new push to improve gender equality across Olympic bodies in Japan, with Mori being replaced by female former Olympian Seiko Hashimoto.
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