And hopefully learns a lesson in understanding in the process.
Osaka has been considered something of a pioneer in LGBT rights in Japan. Back in 2013, Yodogawa Ward was the first government body in the country to officially declare support for LGBT communities. While merely a symbolic gesture at first, it has spread into a larger movement of sensitivity that now includes all wards in Osaka.
Sweeping regulations have been made in efforts to accommodate all lifestyles in municipal affairs such as filling out applications that require gender and training staff to be open to a wider range of needs from all citizens.
Among all these changes, the city had decided to affix a rainbow flag marker and message that LGBT people were welcome to use their Kamutoteki Toilets or “multipurpose restrooms.” These are single-person restrooms designed to accommodate men, women, people with babies, people in wheelchairs… pretty much anyone who would need to use a toilet or change a diaper.
By the beginning of this year, these rainbow signs could be seen on about 240 restrooms in public spaces around Osaka. However on 20 April, Osaka announced that the signs would no longer be used after they had received complaints from LGBT groups.
At first I thought I could see why: although their hearts seemed to be in the right place, there was something weird and tone-deaf about declaring a toilet available to a group of people it had already been available to. It would be like McDonald’s starting a campaign with the slogan: “LGBT can eat our Big Macs!”
But it turned out I was wrong. According to city officials, LGBT groups complained that by placing the rainbow marks on certain toilets, members of those communities would feel as if they were being identified as such by their choice of restrooms.
めろんぱんこ[福祉UDオタクぱんちゃん] (@melonpanch) December 06, 2017
Osaka city was at first confused by the complaint, saying that the restrooms were for everyone so no one person would be identified as LGBT simply by using one. Indeed, when we see someone walk out of a bathroom that has a wheelchair sign on it, we don’t start applauding their miraculous ability to walk.
Knowing my luck, I’d be the one guy seen coming out of a rainbow bathroom and spotted by some vengeful bigot who then secretly sabotages my life. Even if I did know, I’d have no idea why, because I’m sure every time I’ve used one of these restrooms I’ve mistook the rainbow as just a normal decorative pattern.
▼ Given the panicked nature of some restroom visits,
easy to see signage is crucial
ちんだ (@chinda0312) March 11, 2018
I mean really, why doesn’t the LGBT rights movement adopt a more distinctive symbol… like a lion or something. Lions are pretty cool.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make with my ignorance is that I have no place dictating what LGBT people should or shouldn’t do, nor am I one to judge what they need or don’t need. I even failed to correctly identify their issue because I have the privilege of not living in constant fear that my particular sexual orientation or mind-body dichotomy may lead to my discrimination, harassment, or even death.
This is a privilege shared for the most part with the decision-makers in Osaka City Hall. So while their rainbow signs were hung with good intentions and their sensitivity manuals were a step in the right direction, they’re merely scratching the surface of a deeper problem they they really have little knowledge or ability to fix.
Real change won’t come until the voices of Japanese LGBT people are heard in the government. This starts with breaking down the social stigmas and prejudices, bit by bit if need be, so that they can have the proper opportunities to get into positions of power, such as the government, and then start to make to significant changes to society the right way.
Now about the lion thing….