National / Social Issues

Osaka lavatory signs do more harm than good, say members of LGBT community

JIJI

Restroom signs for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have drawn an unexpected backlash from sexual minorities in Japan.

The city of Osaka put a rainbow-colored sticker representing sexual diversity on the doors of unisex multipurpose restrooms in municipal government buildings in hopes of making it easier for LGBT people to use them.

The city withdrew the measure following complaints from LGBT people.

Multipurpose restrooms are designed for easy use by elderly people and people in wheelchairs, regardless of gender. An official at the Yodogawa Ward Office in Osaka came up with the idea to put the sticker on such facilities after attending a lecture by a nonprofit organization supporting LGBT people.

After introduction of the sticker in 2014, the idea spread to neighboring wards. But some LGBT people complained that they could draw unnecessary attention if they are seen entering a restroom adorned with the sticker.

In the face of growing criticism, the municipal government decided to end use of the sticker in March.

At a news conference last month, Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura stressed the importance of listening to LGBT people. He voiced the city’s intention to continue taking measures for the LGBT community, saying that “doing nothing is the worst thing.”

Some LGBT people also complained after a large hotel in the city of Kyoto put up a sign symbolizing gender neutrality on its multipurpose restrooms.

However, a hotel official said the sign will stay in place for the time being, noting that similar signs are commonly used in elementary schools in the United States. There is no measure that can satisfy everyone, the official said.

In February, a meeting among LGBT people was held in Kyoto to discuss restrooms for sexual minorities.

A participant said some measures are disturbing even if they are based on goodwill, while another voiced concern over possible social recognition that LGBT people use particular restrooms.

“Support means offering a hand to help with individual difficulties,” one of the meeting’s organizers said. “Posting stickers is not synonymous with support.”

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