National / Social Issues

60% of sexual minorities bullied at school, survey finds

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Despite growing support nationally for added LGBT protection in recent years, nearly 60 percent of sexual minorities have been bullied at school, according to a recent online survey that also found teachers did not help end the intimidation.

The internet survey, conducted by Yasuharu Hidaka, a professor of social epidemiology at Takarazuka University School of Nursing in Osaka, found that 58.2 percent of respondents faced bullying in elementary, junior high or high school, and most of them endured verbal abuse and anti-gay slurs.

Only 13.6 percent said teachers had helped resolve the issue.

The findings shed light on the lack of support for LGBT students at classrooms.

Commissioned by Lifenet Insurance Co. and conducted between July and October last year, the study polled 15,064 subjects from teenagers to nonagenarians. Hidaka said the poll of sexual minorities is the largest survey of its kind to date in Japan.

Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed did not learn anything about homosexuality at school. The percentage was lower for those in their teens and 20s, compared with those aged 40 or older.

More than 20 percent said that homosexuality was taught in schools as “abnormal” or received negative information about sexual minorities. The ratio was higher for younger people than for older generations.

In April 2015, the education ministry distributed a notice to education boards, urging them to protect sexual minorities. It also created a brochure on the topic the following year to be used by teachers.

Despite these efforts, teachers’ general understanding of LGBT issues hasn’t improved much, said Hidaka.

Hidaka conducted a separate study between 2011 and 2013 surveying 6,000 teachers from kindergarten through high school. Based on the survey, nearly 40 percent believed sexual orientation was determined by choice.

In the same survey, only 13.7 percent said they had any experience educating students on LGBT issues. Over 40 percent of those who never taught the subject said they did not feel the need to do so.

“Many don’t have the knowledge. They never imagine that there could be a sexual minority student in their classrooms,” Hidaka told The Japan Times on Wednesday.

“The important thing is to conduct full-fledged training for teachers, as they can’t teach the subject without having a correct understanding of the issue.”

The latest survey also found that about 70 percent of respondents faced discriminatory verbal attacks at school or in the workplace. Only 30 percent said these environments were LGBT friendly.

“More companies are starting to turn their eyes to (issues faced by LGBT people). But such moves have been made mainly in Tokyo, or large-scale organizations, especially foreign companies,” Hidaka said.

Japan still has a long way to go, he said, urging both private and public sectors to be more proactive in deepening understanding and respect for the LGBT community.

Around 8 percent of the country — or 1 in every 13 people — belong to a sexual minority group, according to estimates by Japan LGBT Research Institute, a think tank launched by advertising giant Hakuhodo DY Holdings Inc.