A number of schools across Japan have started to introduce more gender neutral uniform options for LGBTI students.
The move comes after LGBTI groups lobbied for student’s to be allowed to wear the uniform suited to the gender they identify with. It also comes after a 2015 notice from Japan’s Education Ministry to schools to improve their inclusion of LGBTI students.
A 2017 survey found that 50% of LGBTI students were bullied at school. That survey also found that of those bullied children, 70% said their teachers did nothing to help them.
‘Some students are embarrassed and cannot concentrate on their studies because of uniforms. In some cases, they stop going to school,’ Anri Ishizaki, head of FRENS, an organization supporting LGBT people told Japan Times.
‘Although uniforms are not the only factors tormenting them, it is a significant element as they are required to wear them all the time.’
Working on getting it right
One of the schools leading the charge was Kashiwanoha Junior High School. It’s in the Chiba prefecture about 60kms east of Tokyo.
‘We thought it would be better to let students wear something they feel comfortable in if they have to struggle to come to school because of uniforms,’ said Koshin Taki, the school’s vice principal of Kashiwanoha Junior High.
‘We chose a subdued color and check patterns so the uniform would be suitable for any student.’
Students will be able to wear skirts or pants and ties or ribbons to go with blazers regardless of their gender identity.
Tombow Co – a clothing manufacturing company – started making gender neutral uniforms after the Education Ministry’s notice.
It said it had been experimenting with the most neutral approaches since then. It found students did not want to wear uniforms that clearly emphasize male and female shapes.
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