Social Issues

The Buddhist monk who fights homophobia in Japan through makeup

By María Roldán

Tokyo, Jun 30 (EFE).- Japanese Buddhist monk Kodo Nishimura, a professional makeup artist and model, has become a trailblazer of LGBTQ+ activism in Japan, spreading a message of inclusion and diversity through both his passions.

“I feel that it is my mission to liberate people using Buddhist teachings and makeup,” Nishimura told in an interview to EFE while promoting his recently published book “This Monk Wears Heels: Be Who You Are,” which is being translated into five languages.

The autobiographical work is a bigger version of his Japanese book Seisei Dodo (2020), where he discusses the branch of Buddhism that he follows – the Pure Land – and how its teachings helped him be at peace with himself and his sexuality as well as launch his activism for the LGBTQ+ community.

The 33-year-old was not always at peace with Buddhism, as he had a difficult childhood in the conservative Japanese society after being conscious of his homosexuality from an early age.

Upset with the distorted view of the community in Buddhism and his own insecurities, he turned his back on the religion and the 500 year old temple that his family takes care of, leaving for New York at the age of 18.

“i was expected to be a boy and inherit the traditional image of a Buddhist monk, and I felt my life was being limited and I wasn’t free,” Nishimura said about his decision to move to the United States, where he was fascinated by the drag queen culture and cosmetics.

After beginning to apply his own makeup, he soon developed a professional interest in the art and now has a career spanning 10 years that includes backstage work in events such as the New York Fashion Week and the Miss Universe Pageant. Nishimura has also starred in the Netflix show “Queer Eye: We’re in Japan!”.

After his visiting other countries such as Spain – where he was able to fully reconcile with his sexuality for the first time – Nishimura learned that “parents can also support and accept our sexualities.”

Eventually his own parents back home also came to terms with his identity.

In Japan, where same-sex marriage continues to be illegal, it is rare to hear insults against the community on the street, but there is very little awareness of their issues.

The monk says that the fear of being ridiculed prevents LGBTQ+ people from coming out, and according to statistics around 80 percent of the community cannot disclose their identity at their workplaces.

“I am in Japan now because I have enough confidence in myself to change the people’s perception about the LGBTQ+ community. While studying Buddhism, I learned a motto: ‘if you do not believe in Buddha yourself, how do you expect others to believe in Him?’ It is the same about LGBTQ rights.” Nishimura insisted.

Homosexuality continues to be criminalized in more than 70 countries, mostly due to religious reasons, and as a member of both the LGBT community and a religion, the Japanese monk advocates for a pluralistic and mutually respectful society.

“It is sad that people do not understand diversity, but at the same time we have to be the ones to inspire people to be free,” Nishimura said from the dressing table of his house while retouching his lipstick and eyeshadow.

One of his projects include a comic book titled “Kodo: the Liberator,” which shows the protagonist, homosexual monk, stopping abuse and promoting respect towards all sexual orientations.

“I wanted to show people that we can also be the protagonist” of our the story, he said proudly. EFE


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