Sugiyama started fencing at the age of 10, climbing the ranks and eventually competing internationally for the Japanese women's team. He felt conflicted with identifying as a woman in competitions and retired at age 25.
"I liked the sport of fencing, I didn't think I could find a place for myself "he said.
WhileJapan is known for its strong civil society and democracy, rights activists say it still has a long way to go on addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) issues.
The Olympic Charter prohibits discrimination and while Tokyo has passed an anti-discrimination law for three years there are not the same legal protections for many part of the rest of the country.
Rights activists hope to use the Games as an opportunity to raise awareness and public support for LGBTQ issues.
"I think a lot of people in the world think that Japan is the defender of human rights, but it 's the opposite, because we don ' t have no marriage equality, we have no laws to discriminate on sexual orientation or gender identity, "said Gon Matsunaka, founderfounder of Japan's first LGBTQ center, Pride House.
Foreign teams are also bringing the message to Japan.
The captain of the German women's hockey team, Nike Lorenz, will wear a rainbow-colored captain's armband to show his solidarity with LGBTQ communities at all his matches said the German Olympic Sports Confederation.
He said the International Olympic Committee approved his request to allow Lorenz to don the armband, just like the German Manuel Neuer, the captain of the national football team, did at Euro 2020 last month.
" We are happy that we have found a common path that allows the hockey team to make a socio-political statement, "said Alfons Hoermann, the president of the confederation.
Sugiyama, who also hosts the annual City Pride March, became the first transgender person to be named to the Japanese Olympic Committee.
"Being excluded from the world of sport is the same as being excluded from society, so I think it is important to take this opportunity to firmly lead positive discussions," he said. Report by Pak Yiu and Andrew Bibee; additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Written by Angela Johnston; Edited by David Dolan and Toby Davis
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