Diversity, inclusion and harmony: Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir performs on Waseda campus

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir (SGLC)

On April 15, Waseda University invited Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir (SGLC) from Australia to perform in the concert held at Okuma Garden House on Waseda campus. The collaborative event was organized by the Intercultural Communication Center (ICC) and the Gender and Sexuality Center (GS Center), both under the administration of the Student Diversity Center.

Despite the name of the choir, SGLC welcomes all who have a love for music to join them regardless of their sexual identity or musical experience. Maintaining a significant presence in the history of Sydney’s LGBT community since its formation in 1991, the choir symbolizes diversity, inclusion and harmony.

SGLC performing in the Okuma Garden House on Waseda campus

Led by conductor Rachelle Elliott, SGLC had specially chosen songs of love, identity and diversity such as “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “This is Me” and “Stand in the Light” to perform at Waseda, as well as two Japanese songs for the Japanese audience. In return, the Waseda University High Society Orchestra performed “Waltzing Matilda,” Australia’s best-known folk song and unofficial national anthem, among many other songs to welcome and show appreciation towards the choir.

Waseda’s High Society Orchestra performing “Waltzing Matilda”

Same-sex marriage in Australia and Japan

Besides performances by SGLC and Waseda’s High Society Orchestra, presentations by SGLC members and Waseda’s students on the history and current state of same-sex marriage in both Australia and Japan were also held.

SGLC member giving a brief history of Australia’s path to legalizing same-sex marriage

“Although same-sex marriage was legalized in Australia in 2017, the passage to progress was not an easy one. Between 2004 and 2017, there were 22 unsuccessful attempts in the federal parliament to legalize same-sex marriage,” said one of the members of SGLC.

Following a series of failed attempts, the Australian government decided to conduct the unprecedented nationwide Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey in 2017 to gauge support for legalizing same-sex marriage, in which participants voted ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” [1] Despite being a voluntary survey, 12,727,920 (79.5%) eligible Australians participated, of which 7,817,247 (61.6%) responded ‘yes’ to the question [2].

“Acting on the results of the survey, the parliament passed the marriage equality law in December 2017 and Australia joined 25 other countries in the world in celebrating the legalization of same-sex marriage,” said the SGLC member.

Waseda student giving a presentation on current state of LGBT rights in Japan

“In Japan, more and more city wards have started issuing same-sex partnership certificates to couples since Shibuya and Setagaya wards in Tokyo started doing so in 2015. The issuing of the certificate is a historic move by the city wards that allows same-sex couples to visit each other in hospital and rent a house together among other recognition,” said one of the students in her presentation.

Despite the rights that a same-sex partnership certificate recognizes, couples continue to face limitations in what the certificate can offer as far as legal means is concerned. In order to make their voice heard, 13 same-sex couples jointly sued the nation on Valentine Day (February 14) earlier this year for equal marital rights [3] and the first trial was conducted on April 15, the day SGLC performed on Waseda campus [4]. Even though the lawsuit is still on-going and there has yet been any decision made by the court, the couples hope their action could be a cause of change.

Waseda University has always been supportive of diversity and inclusion since its founding. In April 2017, Waseda became the first ever Japanese university to establish the GS Center with the role of providing support and consultation to LGBT students, as well as promoting understanding towards the LGBT community on campus. Since its establishment, the GS Center has been organizing many events and talks every year to raise awareness on LGBT related issues.

With a set of common beliefs, the university looks forward to more opportunities to work together with SGLC in the future.

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