• Thank you for taking time for us in early morning. It’s very much an honor…

  • Really happy to be here virtually. Hello.

  • Hello. I’m Yuka Kanemoto, Chief Editor of Forbes Japan web editorial team. I am the organizer of this interview. Thank you very much. By the way, this our magazine. Can you see this? Your cover of Forbes Japan.

  • (laughter)

  • This is one of the most bestselling magazine of all times. Thank you. Thank you very much.

  • [laughs] Today, as we emailed you earlier, Ui, right next to me, elementary school student. She’s the also bestseller author, is going to interview to you about transgender.

  • (Japanese)

  • [laughs] All right. From now on, Ui, her name, and we, W E, is a little bit confusing. Let me call her name as Uijan. Before I interview, on a technical note, I will be translating her Japanese to English. Also, it would be appreciated if we have time to translate after you speak English into Japanese for Uijan.

  • It’s consecutive translation, of course. No worries.

  • Yes. Thank you very much. After this interview, we published a panel. We’ll make an article of this interview on our website. I don’t want to waste your precious time. Let’s get started. First of all, please let Uijan introduce a little bit about herself.

  • (Japanese)

  • Hello, my name is Ui Akimoto. I’m 10 years old. I wrote a book called “I Love Elementary School”, and this book has been read by so many people. I’m so glad that my book is being read by so many people.

  • Yesterday, I read your book also, and I was very impressed by the idea of raising your hands and immune to yourself, so that teachers can see that you want to speak. This is excellent.

  • (Japanese)

  • The reason I became interested in transgender people was because I was watching TV program about gender, so I did some research for my summer free study. However there was so few books on transgender that elementary school students could read, so I decided to create by myself.

  • (Japanese)

  • The reason I wanted to ask you a question was because I find out that transgender people exist not only in Japan but also in other nations.

  • Certainly, just as we can see the rainbow over here also. This is currently sunlight, and after rain. We probably see the same rainbow even though it’s technically not the same place.

  • (Japanese)

  • All right. From now, we are going to ask a question.

  • (Japanese)

  • First question is, how did you feel when you were a man? What kind of feeling the most you had?

  • I “had” a male puberty, but I would not say that I “am” just a man. Just as I would later “have” a female puberty, but I would not say that I “am” just a woman. The thing about our experience is that we have them, but we are not necessarily exclusively defined by them.

  • (Japanese)

  • How did you feel when you became a woman?

  • As I mentioned, I had a female puberty, but I do not see that this exclusively defined myself. Just like the rainbow, it has many colors. It’s the diversity of the experience that makes a rainbow. You wouldn’t say a rainbow “become purple at the end of it” or “the rainbow started red.”

  • You can say that if you draw a rainbow on paper, that’s probably how you actually draw it, there’s a sequence, but the concept of the rainbow is defined by the intersection of colors.

  • I would say the female puberty brought me new sensations. My body brought me finer feelings about many different things. For example, I feel other people’s emotions more accurately, due to shared experiences. I would feel that I could develop more nuanced relationships with other people, the sense of caring about other people who had such experiences. I wouldn’t say that these feelings are exclusive to women, it’s simply that during a female puberty, I felt those feelings more acutely.

  • (Japanese)

  • When did you realize that you are female?

  • I realized that the expectations — how exclusively a man or a boy should interact with the world — does not describe me usually. This is like, for example, you have written a book, I have written some books too, but the fact that we are “authors”, simply means that we have some experiences. We can talk about those experiences, but we are not limited by this label of “author”.

  • If people start saying to you, “Oh, because you’re a author, you have to behave in such and such way.” You may say, “But I’m not just an author, I have also ha other experiences.”

  • I realized that when I was around 12 years old when I discovered the Internet and the computer does not care about my gender, never asked about my gender. I realized that much more expressions are available to me than that is expected by the society of “boys”.

  • (Japanese)

  • To expand a little bit. Say your friends told you that, “Hey, you are an author. I’m not an author, but I have some ideas. You have to write a book to express my ideas.” This is basically using your identification as an “author” to get you to do something that you may or may not want to do.

  • If you refuse and your friends say, “But you are an author, you cannot refuse me.” This is called stereotyping. What I want to express is that although we have some experiences, it does not define us and how this society necessarily relate to us.

  • (Japanese)

  • Could you tell us why did you choose the name of Audrey? Is there any special meaning?

  • Yes, my Kanji name is that of a phoenix, and it is a non binary Kanji character. The Kanji phoenix when next to the female phoenix, then that’s a more masculine word. When next to dragon, it’s a more feminine word.

  • This is a gender fluid Kanji. I learned from my Japanese friends that the pronunciation of that Kanji is Otori in Hongō and which also informed my choice of Audrey as the English name.

  • (Japanese)

  • Could you tell us how did you find that courage, bravely to tell about yourself as a transgender to the world?

  • The most important thing is a community. When I started my first company with some friends, most of these friends are, what we call LGBTIQ people, meaning lesbians and gays and bisexuals, transgender, queers and intersex.

  • I have many friends, both in work and also online that has similar experiences of what we call, “Coming out,” I was supported by them thinking if they have managed to do, certainly I could too. A network of mutual support and a safe space to talk about coming out. That is important.

  • (Japanese)

  • That word normal can create exclude the person. Why do you think about the word and a notion or a meaning of normal for you?

  • In Taiwan, we think any public sector committee, it’s normal to have at least one third, three in one, in a different gender. At least one third women. If it’s almost all women, then at least one third men. This is considered normal.

  • In many situations, now we’re pushing for 40 percent. That is to say, it’s not normal unless there’s 40 percent presence. For example, in our national parliament we now have more than 40 percent, 42 percent, to be precise, women, as members of our parliament. This defines normalcy to the community, to the society.

  • I don’t think the label normal is necessarily applicable to individuals, because a society have a diverse set of people and it’s normal. I don’t think a rainbow should be red for it to be normal. It doesn’t make sense. It makes sense for a rainbow to be multi color.

  • (Japanese)

  • Do you think children should know about a transgender?

  • I think transgender to me means transcending the gender stereotypes so if the children can learn that it is not OK to stereotype each other. You shouldn’t, for example, think that other people can say because you are a girl that you must do this and this, while as a boy I must not do this and this.

  • Just like as I mentioned if your classmates say, “Oh, you are a author, I’m just a reader. I cannot write a book.” Maybe you should tell them, “Well, I can teach you how to write a book yourself, instead of me assuming all the book writing work.” This is transcending stereotypes.

  • (Japanese)

  • What kind of message do you think we send to children in terms of transgender?

  • I think biology should not determine our destiny.

  • (Japanese)

  • To make it short, I believe many people should know about transgender. What can we do right now to make transgender person happier?

  • You can become a little bit more transgender yourself. Everybody could do that. In Taiwan, there was a boy who called hotline 1922, saying that he only has pink medical mask and he doesn’t want to go to school because all the boys in his class have blue medical grade mask.

  • The very next day, the commander Chen Shih chung, the Minister of Health and Welfare, as well as all the medical officers, wore pink medical mask. Minister Chen even said Pink Panther was his childhood hero.

  • Everybody wore pink for a while. This is called gender mainstreaming. This is saying that it’s not about your biology that you can only dress in this color or that color. Everyone has the freedom to dress in any color, and that makes everyone a little bit more transgender.

  • (Japanese)

  • This question is from me and for Japan. As for my knowledge here in Japan, there are very few minority in important positions, like CEO and you compared to other nations. Talking about the female, the situation is progressing. It’s getting better little by little.

  • Regarding the LGBTQ and also the handicapped person, from my understanding, it’s very few here in Japan, unfortunately. How do you think we can increase the number of such minorities in key positions?

  • First of all, in Taiwan, the LGBTQ+ movement has been supported by the feminist movement. It’s not a zero sum game. The more women enjoy equality and rights to economic resources and financial services, the more their experience can be used to also encourage people to become more out of the closet.

  • There may be people who fear that if they identify themselves with non binary experiences in sexual orientation or gender identity, they will suffer financially or socially because of that. A strong equality regime for the feminist movement provides a strong norm.

  • It’s normal, for example, for the same work to be paid the same instead of men getting $130, but women get only $100. I think that’s the situation in Japan, if I’m not mistaken. We have corrected that it provides a safer space for all sexual minorities as well.

  • (Japanese)

  • Let me ask you one more question from me. How do you think recreates environment that’s embrace the diversity including the LGBTQ?

  • As I mentioned, I think it’s important for a “normal panel” or a “normal committee” to be as diverse as possible. What will also help is to encourage people to speak out against any discriminations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This kind of norm for gender stereotyping gets reinforced every time that people are afraid to call it out.

  • If you do call it out and turn it into a social object for people to comment on, that sort of discrimination and bullying could disappear. People could see that it was not accepted by their community or society to behave like that. The importance of media, and yes, of book authors, is very important.

  • (Japanese)

  • Next question is from Uijan.

  • (Japanese)

  • What does gender mean to transgender people?

  • The same as what colors mean to a rainbow. It means out of the diverse expressions, a continuous experience that includes these different experiences.

  • (Japanese)

  • Next question is from me. The next question is, it used to be a long time since people pointed out the importance of a diversity in society, the company, and the nation. What do you think that brings the diversity of creating a society? What are the benefits of the diversity for the nation, the company, and the society?

  • A very important point about a democratic polity, our decision making with the people is, “Nothing about us without us.” Meaning that if someone will be affected by a public policy or group decision, that someone should have a voice in determining how that policy happens.

  • If a policy is made only by a very uniform composition, no diversity of people, even if they are very smart and very considerate, because they do not have the diverse experience of other individuals or communities, they will most likely make decisions that either sacrifices or sidelines these marginalized communities even more.

  • Or they will be oblivious to the smarter solutions that are already discovered by these communities. They will be both blind and also sometime, cause harm. To be more diverse and inclusive, is to open to more possibilities of co creation and also to be more effective in realizing the common values that brings the whole society the good and well being instead of at the expense of some minorities.

  • (Japanese)

  • Just one example. If the committee to build a workplace construction layout, if none of them have any experience in breastfeeding, then they will probably design a space so there’s no room for breastfeeding or very awkward breastfeeding. This is not out of hostility from our lives. This is just out of a lack of diversity. You can probably extrapolate from this example.

  • (Japanese)

  • Let me understand that.

  • (Japanese)

  • Sorry, sir, make it just short. What kind of world do you hope in the future, after COVID 19?

  • OK. I thought the question was longer than that.

  • (laughter)

  • OK. I think in Taiwan, at least we’ve been more or less post COVID for almost a year now, for about 10 months now. We understand that we’re not yet completely free of the threat of the virus, but we do lift in a cause of a COVID situation and there’s two changes.

  • One is that international connection through video conference becomes a normal thing in daily life, just as the meeting we are having now. I think this is great, because this is not just transgender. This is transcultural. [laughs] We’re all now living in transcultural lives and transcending the time zones sometimes. That’s the first.

  • The second is that, because we have to experience of tackling this international issues on the pandemic across all different countries and cultures. We can now use the same support system. We establish internationally to solve more global problems such as; gender equality, we talk about today but also climate change I mean and many other things.

  • (Japanese)

  • It is often pointed out that there is a correlation between diversity and innovation. Do you think that diversity generates innovation?

  • I think diversity is a beginning, but it only means that many different people of different experiences are on the same table.

  • Inclusion, which means that these people listen to one another and is able to empathize and also get similar experiences, learning from one another. That is inclusion, and that’s even more important. Inclusion cannot happen without diversity. Diversity is a good first step.

  • (Japanese)

  • He is Uijan’s parent, the father and his question is you’re reflecting on your parents, the father and the mother, what do you think the most important thing to raise the children?

  • My parents treated me as an adult very early on, whenever I want to protest something or to change, for example, how my relation to school is and so on, they would always say, “But you have to tell us why. You have to explain. You have to make solid arguments.” They help me to make such arguments.

  • If I cry or if [laughs] I make the unreasonable demands of self contradictory arguments and so on, they let be no doubt, but they do not complete the arguments for me. They respect that I am an individual with my own feelings, but they also want to communicate with me without assuming the narrative of me.

  • This is very important because if we treat children as adults, they become mature very quickly. If we treat even adult children as babies, [laughs] as children, then they become dependent and cannot develop their own worldview or narrative that easily.

  • (Japanese)

  • Our next, Ui’s mother is going to ask you.

  • (Japanese)

  • The question is that when you cannot go to the school and also about the struggling about the transgender, so what is…How can I say it? How happy were you that your parents at this point to you about your struggling or they worry about the anxiety?

  • First of all, I was extremely fortunate because the head of my middle school supported me to learn on my own. She said, “You don’t have to go to my school anymore because I want you to fulfill your wish to do research.”

  • The head of this school initially thought I have to complete my studies, get a PhD or something to do research, but I showed her that the Internet enabled everyone to do research together and she is OK with that.

  • The parent’s anxiety of me dropping out of high school [laughs] of course, it’s there. I’m not saying it’s not there, but I’m very fortunate in that there is a support structure of people who are homeschoolers, people who are self directed learners, and they are OK with sharing their experience with my parents and my extended family and my community.

  • My suggestion is very simple, it’s just to listen more across different experiences that applies to the culture side as well as to the gender side.

  • (Japanese)

  • To expand on the listening, if I am anxious about something and my friend or you [laughs] is anxious about something else. Then we listen to one another, we both feel better. There’s less anxiety. If we define ourselves as, “Oh, I’m an anxious person. You’re a anxious person.” Then this stereotyping makes both of us even more anxious when talking to one another.

  • The experience is what we have, the feeling is what we have, but we’re not defined by that. The way we grow out of those definitions is by listening to one another.

  • (Japanese)

  • Next question is, what do you see or what do you think is your role besides being a digital minister?

  • I sometimes call myself a poetician, meaning that I’m not just doing politics, but I am doing also poetry. By poetry, I mean the ideas that spread easily, like humor over rumor, fast fair fun, and things like that.

  • A role of a communicator is to make sure that idea was spreading, are expressed in a succinct matter, in a succinct text or song or drawing, and things like that. I get the same feeling when I read your book.

  • (Japanese)

  • All right. Lastly, Uijan will make some comments. Also thanks to you. Thanks, your message.

  • (Japanese)

  • Thank you very much, I´ve learnt a lot. I’ll be continuing to learn more about transgender people. Thank you very much. That’s all for our question, thank you very much for your time, and we had a really great time.

  • ありがとうございました and thank you for the awesome interpretation.

  • I also feel very happy talking to you and also learning from you. Live long and prosper.

  • Thank you very much. Thank you.