Establishment of Gender and Sexuality (GS) Center
In April 2017, Waseda University became the first and only Japanese university so far to publicly voice its support for the LGBT community by opening the Gender and Sexuality (GS). Its purpose is to provide support and consultation for the LGBT students, as well as to raise awareness on issues related to gender and sexuality. As part of the University’s effort to support diversity on campus, the Center also hopes to reach out to the student population to gain as many supporters as possible for the LGBT community. In fact, the idea of establishing a GS Center was actually proposed by the students. Hence, the opening of the GS Center does not only display the University’s stance and support for the LGBT community but also demonstrates the University’s willingness to listen to students’ opinions and suggestions on how to make the University a better place for everyone.
GS Center stresses the importance of professionalism in its staff and makes sure that all staff working there are equipped with the necessarily knowledge on gender and sexuality as well as experience on counseling. As such, students who wish to talk to or receive consultation from our staff (at present, there are two staff and five student staff working at the Center) can feel at ease. In addition, the Center also invites guests to give talks about gender and sexuality on campus.
Addressing the concerns of LGBT students
Three months have passed since the establishment of the Gender and Sexuality (GS) Center. Students who visited the Center came with different purposes, from seeking counseling to merely wanting to understand more about gender and sexuality. In April alone, approximately 80 students visited.
Students who identify themselves as a LGBT come to the Center with many concerns and questions. Some commonly asked questions include whether there is a need to change their gender identity on the family registry and student card, as well as concerns related to doing medical checkup. Acting on the concerns of the LGBT student population, the GS Center and the University is working on ways to create an environment where LGBT students can feel comfortable being themselves when they are at Waseda. Initiatives that the University has already carried out include the setting up of the “All Gender Toilets” around campuses and the removal of gender column on student attendance book. Nevertheless, it is important to continue reaching out to University staff (academic and non-teaching personnel alike) to seek their understanding on the LGBT community to prevent unnecessary outing of LGBT students.
Over the past few months, the GS Center is also seeing an ever-increasing number of views of its homepage. It also receives many questions from other universities and high school students, an overwhelming response that was beyond expectation.
Everyone can be an ally of the LGBT community
The University has also organized the WASEDA LGBT ALLY WEEK on campus for two consecutive years with the aim of raising awareness and getting as many allies of LGBT community. In addition, about 100 alumni from the Waseda University LGBT and Ally Alumni Association also participated in and displayed their support to the LGBT community at this year’s Tokyo Rainbow Pride at Yoyogi Park.
Even though Japan as a whole has come to acknowledge the existence of the LGBT community, many still lack understanding about them and could display insensitivity towards the community unconsciously. As such, it is important to continue providing support and raising awareness.