Figures from recent surveys speak for themselves: 38% of LGBT people in Japan say they have been victims of at least one among 10 types of incidents deemed to be sexual harassment or assault; just over a quarter of respondents to another survey said they had been outed, with transgender men reporting the most such cases at 53.6%.

Socially conservative Japan still has a way to go — same-sex marriage remains illegal and being openly gay is still something of a taboo — but there are plenty of signs that attitudes are shifting toward acceptance, or at least awareness.

Take attitudes to transgender people. More people than ever applied to officially change their registered gender in Japan in 2019, although the legal requirements to do so remain arduous. But as is so often the way in Japan, even as legal and political change lags, society moves on regardless.

Being Transgender In Japan | THE VOICELESS #4 | ASIAN BOSS
Being Transgender In Japan | THE VOICELESS #4 | ASIAN BOSS

In the world of work, the standard requirement that job applicants indicate their gender and provide a photo on resumes — which can be problematic for transgender people — has left the country out of step with international norms, but there are small signs that this may be changing, Kyodo reports.

A growing number of Japanese prefectural high schools are also relaxing or scrapping gender codes for uniforms to meet the needs of transgender and other sexual-minority students, with around a third of prefectures taking such steps in response to an education ministry request five years ago.

To win broad acceptance of the changes, many schools have been stressing how the moves benefit students as a whole, increasing flexibility for the sake of comfort and convenience. But however it’s spun, it’s still progress.