Almost all school boards in Japan remove gender field from applications

Students applying to enter public high schools from next spring will no longer be required to specify their gender on the application form in Japan’s 47 prefectures except Tokyo, local school boards announced on Sunday.

The decision comes amid growing awareness of transgender and non-binary people in Japan, many of whom may face psychological distress having to specify a gender they do not identify with.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education will be the only one to keep the gender field as it has established a gender-based quota system for full-time schools with general courses.

A 2021(L) application form for public high schools in Gunma Prefecture shows the gender field (circled in red), compared to the 2022(R) form with no field. (Kyodo)

According to local school boards, the gender field was included in all prefectural public high school admission application forms for fiscal year 2018. However, Osaka and Fukuoka removed the field from fiscal year 2019, other areas taking similar action in subsequent years.

Five prefectures – Yamagata, Tochigi, Gunma, Chiba and Shizuoka – have decided to remove the admissions field for fiscal year 2022 and beyond.

Just as a fiscal year begins in April in Japan, the academic year begins in April for most educational institutions in the country.

Explaining its decision, the Tochigi Prefectural Board of Education said it “respects sexual diversity”, while the Chiba Board of Education said it does not foresee any particular problems with the removal of the field.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education decided in September to revise its gender-based quota system in stages after facing growing criticism that the different pass mark for men and women is sexist.

A board official said that without a quota, the gender field is “essentially useless”, suggesting that Tokyo could follow suit in the future.

Mameta Endo, 34, a transgender man and representative of the sexual minority support group “Nijiizu”, said he felt like he was denying himself by indicating his gender on a form.

“(Removing the field) will eliminate the need for students to write a different genre than the one they identify with, which in turn will help eliminate gender discrimination,” Endo said.

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