Student group in Fukushima raises awareness of LGBT issues

16 February 2020

On one day in February, about 10 people gathered for a discussion hosted by Fukushima University students in the city to raise awareness on LGBT issues.

“Let’s create a world where everyone can express (themselves) and be accepted for who they are,” said one of the students.

“We need to raise awareness about the importance of diversity in society, including in municipalities and businesses,’’ said another participant.

Many in Fukushima are acknowledging the need for a deeper understanding of the struggles LGBT people go through and creating an inclusive society, prompting some groups to host similar events and parades.

Fukushima Prefecture, meanwhile, has eliminated the need to fill out one’s gender on application forms for prefectural junior high and high school entrance exams starting this spring. But experts and advocates say it needs to do more to ensure LGBT rights.

The student group that hosted the discussion, which was launched in September last year and comprises four students from Fukushima University and Fukushima Medical University, holds a gathering among students every month to discuss the problems LGBT people face.

“I hope to continue the activities to raise (people’s) awareness,’’ said Daiki Nagase, 23, who heads the group.

Fukushima University is also doing its part to accommodate the needs of LGBT students and faculty members. In a questionnaire conducted on some 2,500 students last year, 0.6 percent of the respondents said their gender was neither male nor female.

Seeing the result, the university turned the signs of 16 restrooms for people with disabilities to “daredemo toire,” or restrooms intended for all people.

The university has also set up a working group with the aim of creating an LGBT guideline this spring.

“We hope to create the best possible environment based on the voices of each one of the students,’’ said an official at the university.

Another group in Fukushima is planning a parade on May 17 near Fukushima Station to raise awareness of LGBT issues - the first in the prefecture. Participants from in and outside the prefecture will parade through the streets with rainbow flags.

“I want to create more opportunities where people can express their individuality," said Yukako Hirose, 23, leader of the organizer.

The organizer will post details of the parade on its Twitter account @fukudai_niji .