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'Male, female…other?' Japan form-makers consider possible LGBT discrimination in their terminology

16 Comments
By SoraNews24

The term “sexual minority” in Japanese refers to anyone who falls under the LGBT+ umbrella, and while lesbian and gay people have been fighting hard for equality as of late there is still a long, long way to go. Transgender individuals in Japan face an especially high risk of discrimination, regardless of the gender they intend to be recognized as, and this struggle is heightened when it comes to bureaucratic paperwork, of which Japan is inordinately fond.

A 60-year-old man in Kyoto Prefecture’s Joyo City recently sent in a letter to the Kyoto Newspaper’s readers’ column concerning the gender question on a form to apply to a senior citizens’ club. Though the form only included “male” and “female” options in 2018, the 2019 edition of the form added a third option: sono ta, meaning “other”. These three options would then be tallied in order to record gender distribution throughout the club, which provides financial aid to its members.

The man claimed in his letter that the phrasing of the “other” option holds a nuance of “unusual” and therefore could create possibilities for discrimination.

In 2018 there were calls to eliminate the gender category entirely, with those pushing for the change feeling it is “unnecessary” to disclose one’s gender to join the club. The option remained due to a desire to track the gender of members for equality purposes (to protect against gender discrimination as well as for secretarial records).

According to the city’s Department of Elderly Care, the “other” option was originally intended to be a free choice that the user could write in their own answer for – but for ease of processing data it became just one option. Those responsible for curating the forms stated “we acknowledge of the complaint and intend to discuss it within the club.”

The topic of gender is quite complicated across the world, but in a country with particularly rigid gender roles these complications are amplified. Individuals who identify as “X-gender” or chuusei (analogous to the English term “nonbinary”/”androgyne”) rarely find a way to describe themselves on official forms. Transgender men and women who have yet to transition may find it distressing to “out” themselves on forms if there is a likelihood staff will take them to task. And then of course, there are people who crossdress despite being comfortable with their assigned gender, who can also find themselves getting hassled for what they put down on their forms.

One of the most popular suggestions for addressing the problem of form terminology is just to allow users to write down their own gender in their own words, but even that comes with drawbacks. When people are given the option to write their own answers it becomes much more time-consuming to collate the data. Do you group the shojo (girls) with the onna no hito(women), or are they separate categories? If someone self-describes as okama (a controversial term for gay men and crossdressers) do you create a separate section for them?

There are no clear-cut answers as of yet, but the Internet is certainly rife with debate.

“So what do LGBT people even want to be done about this?”

“I mean, if they end up going so far as including a ‘prefer not to say’ option you may as well just get rid of the gender question altogether…”

“Do they have an option for intersex people?”

“I don’t care if people are gay or whatever, but I can’t stand people who complain about this sort of stuff.”

While people may have their complaints with bureaucracy and its limits, something nice to keep in mind is that the general populace have become much more accepting of LGBT identities in Japan as of late. At the end of the day governmental forms are created by people, so as attitudes change, maybe we’ll find a way to make sure everyone can be recognized by society for who they really are.

Source: Kyoto News via Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Commercial reveals what some LGBT individuals go through in Japan

-- Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward to offer marriage certificates to same-sex couples

-- [Another women’s university in Japan to accept transgender women, the first in Kyushu](Another women’s university in Japan to accept transgender women, the first in Kyushu ](Another women’s university in Japan to accept transgender women, the first in Kyushu)

© SoraNews24

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

16 Comments
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The only solution to people getting offended by the requirement to list their sex at birth is to remove the indicator all together, no one needs to list it at all.

Of course you do. Males and females are different biologically, and need different healthcare options. Also, in some countries, certain areas/activities are legally protected as defined by sex ie changing rooms, access to a health care professional of the same sex, refuges, prisons etc.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Blologically, you cannot change your sex through surgery or medication. You can change your sexual charecteristics and your gender.

I guess you are talking about genetics. Biology is far of limiting itself as genetics. Moreover when you are talking about sex identification that is quite irrelevant in the current world. When a baby is born a geneticist is not called to make a test in order to determinate the sex of the baby. The people around just watch the external appearance of the baby.

Genetics only come in case of ambiguous and that is quite recent and most likely not everywhere. Moreover even if genetics can not help, there is still a sex which is assigned based on other biological criteria.

If you were lucky enough to have your gender, genetical sex, gonade sex, hormonal sex, genital sex, ... match good for you. It is not the case for everyone.

In 2018 there were calls to eliminate the gender category entirely, with those pushing for the change feeling it is “unnecessary” to disclose one’s gender to join the club.

I guess the hobby should be more relevant for this kind of club. And check out with the non members why did they not join.

After if it is more of a matchmaking club for senior citizen than a hobby one ...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The only solution to people getting offended by the requirement to list their sex at birth is to remove the indicator all together, no one needs to list it at all.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

With all the insistence on recognition and call for equality, why not just add in an option that says LGBT besides Male or Female.

One thing please, one separate WC for man-lady as I cannot help not suspecting that some men might take this opportunity to harass girls and ladies in lady's WC, pretending that "they" are a "lady". Horror case.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I think there are some differences between "sex" and "gender". Sex refers to the biological stuff, so either male or female, but changeable with a surgery. Gender is more about the psychology, how a person defines himself/herself.

Blologically, you cannot change your sex through surgery or medication. You can change your sexual charecteristics and your gender.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Is there no other way a form can be written to satisfy the requirements?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

How many letters are going to be needed to make this (and other) forms "fair" for everyone?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Andrew Crisp wrote Today 01:07 pm JST

Don't do it Japan, don't follow the West down the path of degeneracy, there are only two sexes Male and Female anyone claiming anything else needs a mental health check.

I think there are some differences between "sex" and "gender". Sex refers to the biological stuff, so either male or female, but changeable with a surgery. Gender is more about the psychology, how a person defines himself/herself.

Which one are the Japanese actually refering to I'm not sure, though...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

“Identify as” ... What does this actually mean?

Foolish notions, I guess. It would perhaps be better for such people to see themselves as others see them.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us 

To see oursels as ithers see us! 

It wad frae mony a blunder free us, 

An' foolish notion: 

(Robert Burns, 1786)

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

“Identify as” ... What does this actually mean? You want to be? You look like? You wish to be referred to as? Fine...

But you aren’t!

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Please don’t join in with this idiocy.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

The man claimed in his letter that the phrasing of the “other” option holds a nuance of “unusual” and therefore could create possibilities for discrimination.

It IS unusual.

...and since the gender one identifies as can change from day to day, or even hour to hour, why should we go along with this...

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Don't do it Japan, don't follow the West down the path of degeneracy, there are only two sexes Male and Female anyone claiming anything else needs a mental health check.

2 ( +11 / -9 )

If what I am is simply what I want to be, what can be done to prevent discrimination against those who deny that they are human? I think of one dear friend who insists that she is really a tanuki. Another is from a planet several hundred light years from earth. Still another is the spirit of a wood-block print artist from the Edo period who has regular run-ins with city officials who object to his claiming that he was born in 1723. He and I often drink together, though, as he tends to become invisible from time to time, I sometimes get odd looks from other customers, who seem to think that I am talking to myself.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

The man claimed in his letter that the phrasing of the “other” option holds a nuance of “unusual” and therefore could create possibilities for discrimination.

Based on this and other evidence, I claim you can't please all the people all the time.

Let's spend our energy on the many actual problems we face, not "possibilities for discrimination".

3 ( +6 / -3 )

LGBT+ umbrella, 

The fact that Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgenders get their own dedicated letter in the acronym while Intersex, Questioning, Queer and Asexuals get toss into a leftover "+" is discrimination in and of itself.

Please use the currently correct form:

LGBTTQQIAAP

1 ( +6 / -5 )

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