Japan's education ministry reportedly sent out a statement Thursday encouraging schools to increase their of support transgender students. The Japan Times reported that government officials instructed area education boards to allow children to use whichever bathrooms and locker rooms they feel most comfortable with.
"It’s a very important step," 28-year-old transgender male Mameta Endo told the Japan Times, adding that he experienced discrimination when he was in school. "I have seen many friends who were pushed into quitting school . . . hopefully, this move will help decrease the number of such students."
As of last summer, Japan's school system had more than 600 students with gender dysphoria. About two-thirds of them received "special consideration," according to a translation of a June 2014 Excite News article. These policies mostly included letting children wear whatever clothes suited them best and enabled them to use nurses' offices to change before physical education classes.
News of the education ministry's notice broke in early March, when the Asahi Shimbun reported that the government would require schools to do more to protect all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students from bullying. The education ministry had previously recognized only students with gender identity disorder, but the Japan Times reported that Thursday's notice calls for the accommodation of other sexual minority groups.
These decisions by the education ministry fit with what some see as a growing trend toward LGBT acceptance in Japan.
In November, the Fuji Hokuryo High School in the Yamanashi prefecture held a "Sex Change Day" where uniform rules were lifted to let males wear skirts and females wear suits. More than 90 percent of the student body participated, according to Queer.hr.
Last month, Tokyo's Shibuya ward started the process of recognizing same-sex marriages by passing an ordinance giving couples access to the "partnership certificates." CNN reported the certificates, the first of which are due to be issued in July, allow residents in same-sex relationships to co-sign leases and enjoy hospital visitation rights. "The purpose is to realize a society where everyone can live in hope," Mayor Toshitake Kuwahara told reporters.