Japanese TV personality Ai Haruna held a press conference in Tokyo December 3 in which she stated the desire for Japan to be more tolerant toward transpeople and others of diverse sexual orientations.
The 37 year old beauty was already a household name in Japan before she was crowned Miss International Queen 2009 last month in Pattaya, Thailand.
"I was surprised to see many transgender people work at hotels and restaurants with no problem in Thailand," she said.
"Japan can learn many things from other Asian nations like Thailand and the Philippines."
In Japan, people can legally change their gender on official documents but transgender people still face spoken and silent discrimination, Haruna said.
She recalled condominium owners had declined to let her rent apartments because neighbors may object.
"I was rejected five straight times," she said.
"I think Japan is behind."
Haruna said she had lived with difficulties since when she was a child.
"I was born with a very masculine sounding boy's name. But I always wanted to be a girl, always dreamed of becoming a pretty idol seen on TV."
"But for a long time life was very difficult for me," she said in a quivering voice.
"Even after I had a sex change operation at the age of 19 and had my first boyfriend, I encountered many, many obstacles that constantly made me realize I wasn't a woman."
Haruna said that she wanted to work internationally to raise awareness for sexual minorities. "I want to work for those who are troubled like me."
"I want to work in the world. And of course, I want to be married some day."
And may you be successful not only in raising awareness about transgender issues during your reign, but in your homeland as well.