Japan Is Considering Transgender-Friendly Restrooms For The 2020 Olympics

It is one of the more progressive Asian nations on LGBT rights.

Preparations for the 2020 Olympics are already underway, and among the new infrastructure projects that Japan is considering for the games are transgender-friendly unisex restrooms, a plan that has been lauded by local LGBT activists. Japan is set to host both the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics. According to the Asahi Shimbun, organizers are looking over plans to build at least one unisex bathroom in seven of the 11 Olympic arenas, and likely several more in larger venues.

Maki Muraki, the head of the LGBT rights organization Nijiiro Diversity, told the local paper: 

Along with the effort to increase the number of public toilets, to raise people's awareness that those who do not look like a typical man or woman can use a toilet as a matter of course is also important.

Japan currently has unisex public restrooms called "daredemo toire" in many locations, but being that they are wheelchair-friendly, they take up more space. The Olympics' organizers plan for the new set of unisex bathrooms to forgo wheelchair accessibility to allow room to accommodate two.



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Japan is among the more progressive countries in the region when it comes to LGBT rights. In 2015, the government issued a notice for school boards to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and don uniforms according to their gender identity, Mashable reported, a stark contrast to the debate surrounding bathroom bills in the U.S. 

Last year, a BuzzFeed report explored ways in which the Olympics could affect the movement to legalize gay marriage in Japan, taking into account the country's traditions and culture. 

But even as the U.S. struggles to preserve the progress advocates have made on LGBT rights, some Asian countries are slowly and patchily making headway on this issue. Despite widespread discrimination, attitudes are changing. In Vietnam, there is a growing acceptance towards the LGBT community, and the government passed a law in late 2015 allowing individuals who have undergone reassignment surgery to legally switch their genders. And although same-sex marriage is not yet legal in any Asian country, that, too might change: Taiwan is poised to become the continent's first to recognize marriage equality, perhaps even as soon as this year. 

Cover image via Shutterstock

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