Major Victory For Transgender Students in Japan!

As the fight for trans rights around the world continues, there's good news from Japan today. Schools in Japan will now let trans students use whichever bathroom or locker room the students prefer. Hooray!

In an historic decision, the Japanese ministry of education issued a notice to local school boards on Thursday telling them to do more for transgender students, as well as for other students in the LGBT community. Schools are being told to respect students' gender preferences as much as is possible — including allowing transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms belonging to the gender with which they identify, rather than trying to force them to use the ones corresponding to the gender they were assigned at birth. The notice also states that gay, lesbian, and bisexual students also deserve additional accommodation in Japanese schools.

Although some schools in Japan already respect trans students' gender identity, this kind of national policy change is a big step forward, as is the explicit mention of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students. In a 2012 document, the ministry of education urged schools to provide support for their trans students, but did not list any specific steps schools should take to do so; nor did they specifically mention any other segments of the LGBT community. Now, however, it seems that the national government is not only encouraging schools to be supportive, but making it clear what sorts of policies they want to see.

Here in the U.S., attempts to allow trans people to use the restrooms belonging to the genders with which they identify has been an uphill battle in many places. There have been many victories; for instance, a student in Colorado recently won a court case upholding her right to use the girls' bathroom at school despit being assigned male at birth. Additionally, gender neutral bathrooms are becoming more common, including at the White House. Even whole cities such as Austin have been trying to make more gender neutral bathrooms available. However, there have also been major setbacks, such as the Kentucky bill that actually forbids trans students from using restrooms of their identified gender.

Hopefully, though, trans rights will continue making progress, here in the United States and around the world. And right now it definitely seems like American schools should be taking a lesson from the Japanese ministry of education when it comes to standing up for trans students' rights.

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