At 24, Kento Hoshi has been running an employee support company for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, for almost two years–a business he felt inspired to set up after a friend’s negative experience.

The friend was male on the family register but identified as female. When she took the plunge and explained her identity at a job interview, she was met with an unsympathetic remark, “There is nobody like you in our company,” and the interview was abruptly brought to a close.

Disheartened, the friend soon quit her university and cut off contact with Hoshi. But the incident stayed on Hoshi’s mind, and he told himself that he had to do something about it.

“Your ability to work has nothing to do with your sexual orientation,” he said. “I want to help create a society where all LGBT people can remain themselves at work.”

Hoshi is gay himself. He came to realize his own sexual orientation around the time he was a second-year junior high school student, where he was being bullied for being “womanly.”

When he turned to a teacher for advice, he was only told to “be manlier,” making him feel as if he did not belong anywhere.

In 2015, as a senior-year university student, Hoshi won the championship in a student business contest by proposing services for building links between LGBT people and businesses. The idea led to him setting up his company in Tokyo in January 2016.

Hoshi’s company runs websites that host information on businesses, such as whether they have systems for recognizing same-sex partnerships. More than 70,000 people have subscribed to the two websites that it operates.

The company also accepts requests for in-house training sessions for deepening understanding, and in July it began services for matching job seekers with potential employers, which resulted in 11 successful job placements as of late November.

Hoshi said he sometimes receives inconsiderate messages, but has made a pledge to himself to keep in mind his friend, who remains unreachable to this day.

 

This article was originally published on The Asahi Shimbun. Read the original article.