Schools in Japan to let transgender students use whichever locker room they prefer


Staff Writer

The education ministry issued a landmark notice on Thursday, urging local education boards to ensure that schools do more to cater to children who believe they were born the wrong gender.

The move, which comes amid rising sensitivity toward sexual minorities by Japanese society and officialdom, will oblige schools to pay greater attention to the needs of transgender students. The measures include, for example, allowing them to come to school with uniforms of whichever gender they prefer or letting them use a bathroom or locker room as they choose so as to pay heed to students’ gender identity as much as possible.

It also says other sexual minority students — gays, lesbians, and bisexuals — deserve greater accommodation, the first such notice of its kind.

Some schools have allowed transgender children to wear the uniform of the gender they identify as, but the latest ministry notice will encourage all schools to do so — from elementary level to high school.

“It’s a very important step,” said Mameta Endo, a transgender male who suffered discrimination at school, which recognized him as a girl, his gender at birth.

Endo, 28, welcomed the ministry’s move to protect the rights of children of all backgrounds to an education, and spoke of cases he has witnessed in which sexual minorities were pressured to leave the school system.

“I have seen many friends who had no choice but to drop out of school. . . . Hopefully, this measure will help decrease the number of such students,” he said.

Because Endo was biologically female, high school teachers required him to wear a skirt.

“Ten years ago, when I came out, teachers didn’t take it seriously” he said. The teachers would tell him it was confusion caused by watching television.

He said he hopes the ministry’s move will eventually alter the mindset toward sexual minorities, starting with the teachers.

In a 2012 document, the ministry urged schools to care for transgender students but stopped short of spelling out what measures to take. Moreover, it omitted any mention of other sexual minorities.

“I praise the fact that they included (all) sexual minorities for the first time,” Endo said, adding that the latest move would help to provide a more secure environment for them.

The education ministry revealed in June 2014 that schools nationwide had recognized 606 students as transgender. But it noted the actual number might be much higher, as sexual minorities often have difficulty coming out.

The move comes amid growing awareness of sexual minorities in Japan.

Last month, in the first such move by a municipality, Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward adopted an ordinance recognizing same-sex unions as “equivalent to marriage.” Ward officials are now offering such couples an official but nonbinding certificate guaranteeing identical rights, including the ability to rent apartments jointly and visit the other partner in hospital.

  • Blue Figs

    This is a step in the wrong direction. People sometimes forget that the word ‘discrimination’ originally meant something along the lines of “to distinguish or to put difference between.” A difference between the sexes should be established not like in America where the lines are blurred and everything is backwards and everything should be accepted as right and good and if someone disagrees with something evil or unnatural he or she is labeled “intolerant” and “narrow-minded.” Transgender behavior should not be accepted nor should sodomy be accepted and neither should be encouraged nor accommodated.

    Japan’s birthrate is low and I believe this decision will only cause them to become more weak and will cause them to eventually spiral out of control and go down on a path that will only undermine their culture. The West is not always right, does Japan want to emulate the West? Will the Japanese sacrifice their nation for the odd behavior of a few? Will they start to encourage the odd behavior of transgender and sodomite people to be the norm and then zealously enforce this new “norm” like America has? Will the Japanese also walk on the path of error like America has where the breakdown of the family unit has occurred? Is a person who does not cave in and bend over backwards for the transgender movement, and who knows the difference between a male and a female “mentally immature” as one poster here implied? I think not.

    On a side note, in America where men are turning into women and women are turning into men some observers like myself believe this was caused by the feminist movement. In American culture feminists like to shame men for being men and if he acts like a man he is considered a throwback to antiquity and in the media, in commercials, he is painted as a bumbling idiot but I digress. Nobody was born in the wrong body.

    In closing here is a quote:

    “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
    And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” -Jesus Christ (Matthew 19:4-5 King James Bible KJV)

  • Dee Omalley Speaks

    Transgender equality is about the innocence of gender, never anything sexual as it isn’t for LGB

  • Sabracadabra

    Some may benefit this if application is not well planned. Ex: If gay students are allowed use locker room with girls, some male students may declare that they are gay even they are not.

    • Brodie Taylor

      Transgender and gay are two different things. Transgender is about identity not sexuality. When people catastrophize things like you have it comes across as fearful and ignorant. It’s just not feasible that a ‘straight’ male student would come out as trans, risking ridicule from his peers, just to use a girl’s locker room.

      • Sabracadabra

        I know the difference surely so I wrote another case.

  • Brodie Taylor

    Things are only ‘strange’ when society treats them as such. This is why it’s so important for schools to become more open and welcoming of LGBTI issues, because bullies thrive off the current atmosphere of fear, secrecy and silence that dominates most schools in Japan. If schools take away that fear by allowing transgendered students to use the restroom of their choice they’re promoting a more ‘tolerant’ and inclusive space and thus taking away the power of the bullies who act like they own the school. Why should schools cater to the bullies and the bigots? Schools have a moral duty to support their LGBTI students and to educate the kids on how to be responsible and respectful members of society which includes respecting those who are ‘different’. It’s paternalistic to oppose this on the basis of how an individual student may be ridiculed because it takes their autonomy away. Yes some young people are immature, but equally there are plenty of other young people who are incredibly mature and more importantly, capable of making their own decisions about what to disclose to their peers. They deserve that freedom. Many students are bullied about their perceived sexual orientation regardless of whether they’re ‘out’ or not so really it makes no difference. They should be the ones who ultimately decide whether to be ‘out’ at scool, and it’s lesiglation like this that gives them this choice. I fully support this and hope it becomes more than a simple recommendation but compulsory for all schools to be trans-friendly spaces.

  • Catherine Halsey

    Good on Japan, here

  • Matt Thorn

    Hmm. I’m looking at the original Japanese of the document, and I don’t see anything about letting children who identify as transgender “use whichever bathroom or locker room they prefer.” It says they should be allowed to use the teacher’s bathroom or disabled (“multi-purpose”) bathroom, and to use the nurse’s office of disabled bathroom to change. I wonder if this is a mistranslation, or if the reporter has access to details not included in the document.

  • Jim Jimson

    This article is full of transphobic language.

  • Seth

    Gayed people can have a problem with this too.

  • Seth

    Was written using some trans-ignorant language. Trans people are referred to as a sexual minority, which equates them with non-heteros as if they have a different sexuality, which stems from equating gender with sex and shows that “transgender” isn’t understood or actually accepted. “Biologically female” is quite loaded, as it suggests trans males aren’t actually male.

  • Confusion comes to Japan!

  • Mangosteen, $1000 chair

    Oh Japan, please don’t make the mistakes we in the West are making.