Original Japanese version published: 25th April 2019
English translation published: 1th November 2019

1. Summary

We proudly present our statement "Feminists and scholars of gender and sexuality oppose discrimination and exclusion of trans women". The statement received 2,715 validated signatures. Although we initially targeted potential signatories who work in education and research, we decided to invite a broader range of co-signers to allow more people to express their support. As we implemented this change, we also extended the deadline for signatures, originally 15th March 2019, to 10th April 2019.

This statement declares loud and clear that feminists and scholars of gender and sexuality oppose discrimination against and exclusion of trans women. We asked co-signers to provide their names to confirm their support of the petition's statement. We will not submit the list of signatures to any organization or company.

2. Statement

Feminists and scholars of gender and sexuality oppose discrimination against and exclusion of trans women

Ochanomizu University is a women's university in Tokyo. In July 2018, the university announced that it would start accepting transgender students to its undergraduate and graduate programs from the 2020 academic year. This was followed by media reports that several other women’s universities are considering admitting transgender women likewise.

Further, on 2nd September 2017, the Subcommittee for Assuring the Rights of LGBTI People in Society and Education, a subcommittee under the Japan Science Council's Committee on Law, published a proposal titled "Securing the rights of sexual and gender minorities: A focus on marriage, education, and labor” which addressed the admittance of transgender women to women's colleges. The subcommittee stated: "Transgender girls and women have the right to have their gender identity respected as they attend school. To prevent them from enrolling in girls' schools or women's colleges constitutes an infringement of their right to learn".

As such, educational institutions are either implementing real institutional change in line with this proposal or are considering doing so. As feminists who work in higher education, and as scholars of gender and sexuality, we applaud this development.

However, Ochanomizu University's announcement resulted in a backlash against the entry of trans women into women-only spaces. Many people voiced concerns and objections on the Internet in particular. Many of these concerns and objections came from women who call themselves feminists. These expressions of discriminatory views about transgender people are not dying down but are becoming more and more prevalent online. We find this deeply concerning, especially that such discriminatory voices are raised in the name of feminism.

Feminism and scholarship on gender and sexuality have taught us we need to interrogate not only sexism but all forms of discrimination. We also need to interrogate how these forms of discrimination intersect. This understanding tells us that women's experiences and the experience of being a woman are not universal. It also tells us that power relations exist not just between men and women but also between women themselves.

Women experience various forms of oppression depending on their positions in society, and the mechanisms underpinning such forms of oppression are complex. Feminism and scholarship on gender and sexuality offer a critical perspective on these mechanisms. We want to reaffirm the importance of this perspective; the importance of the insights we have gained from feminism and the vast body of scholarship on gender and sexuality; and our desire to develop our understanding further.

Based on this awareness and understanding of our position, we declare that we will not tolerate discrimination against transgender people. Please sign our statement to show your support of its message.

Statement authors:

Keiko Atsuta (sociology and gender, Waseda University)
Yuriko Iino (feminism and disability studies, University of Tokyo)
Hitoshi Ishida (sociology)
Yayo Okano (feminist theory and political thought, Doshisha University)
Tomone Komiya (sociology, Tohoku Gakuin University)
Akiko Shimizu (feminism and queer theory, University of Tokyo)
Hiroyuki Taniguchi (law, Kanazawa University)
Akiko Hori (gender, sexuality, and visual culture)
Naoya Maekawa (social history, Fukushima University)
Junko Mitsuhashi (history of gender and sexuality)
Tomomi Yamaguchi (cultural anthropology and feminist studies, Montana State University)
Satoko Yan Nagayama (sociology, gender studies, power relationships between feminisms in former colonies and colonizing powers)

3. Signatories For the full list of signatories who agreed to make their names public, see the Japanese version of this statement at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LLkLOlf1tIn3FlGsIZeLdi-SGjrUU740/view.

3,342 people co-signed this statement. We excluded duplicates, anonymous signatures, and those including possibly invalid names, leaving 2,715 validated signatures.

4. Selected comments on the statement

—I feel that the transgender children I work with face so many struggles. I hope that society will change very soon so that these children can simply live their lives without having to fight for things nobody should have to fight for.

—I think that the most important task of educators is to improve the content and level of what is taught, to ensure that what we teach keeps pace with how the world is changing.

—I'm a non-Japanese transgender woman currently living my daily life as a woman. I'm planning to start a graduate program next year, but I worry that society will not accept me after I graduate, especially when I start working. Unlike lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, transgender people don't conform to social expectations of gender presentation. This visible difference is difficult to hide. I want workplace discrimination to be eliminated (While looking for part-time jobs, I've been rejected several times for no reason other than that a prospective employer's system or documents couldn't accommodate trans people).

—Anti-trans discrimination on Twitter is horrible. I want all people, no matter their position, to protect the human dignity of others. That is what I expect feminists to stand for.

—I sign this statement to survive and to live with dignity as, first and foremost, a human being who is constructed within and from societal and human relations, regardless of any gender-based differences.

—As a cisgender lesbian, I support the message of this statement. Trans women are women. I don't understand why they get targeted by people who want to ostracize them as if they're potential criminals. I stand with trans women.

—I despair at all this terrible hate speech on the Internet. I don't want to see Twitter anymore. But I'm signing this statement because I want to give moral support to my friends.

—I work for a labor union. From a labor rights perspective, it is completely unacceptable to discriminate against or exclude a worker based on who they are.

—Any kind of discrimination is abhorrent to me. Nobody should be discriminated against, no matter what minority group they belong to.

—I hope that one day, society will allow not only trans women but every single person their rights based on their gender identity. That's why I support this statement.

—I self-identify as a questioning person. Writing my senior thesis was what convinced me to start seeing myself as questioning rather than as a heterosexual cis woman, as I had considered myself to be up to then. I did not expect that living without a distinct gender identity or sexual orientation required so much determination. I hope that this kind of activism will help spread awareness about LGBT people, sexual orientation, gender identity and also about the fact that there are people like me who don't identify with one gender.

—I think this statement sends an important message, not just for universities but also for a wide range of other educational institutions. I wholeheartedly support this.

—I support this statement both as someone who is involved with education and as a transgender person.

—I don't see how a "feminism" that excludes trans women represents any real progress. I believe that there is a way for all women to affirm themselves, reexamine themselves and society, and make progress together.

—I have only seen what’s posted on Twitter as well as some blog posts, but these still fill me with a sense of crisis about how rapidly anti-trans discrimination has spread and how it's become almost indistinguishable from hate speech.

—Please stop transphobia on Twitter. I beg you. Please protect my friends. I'm not strong enough to do it by myself. Please.

—Feminism does not discriminate, does not tolerate discrimination, and does not divide women according to physical or innate characteristics only to exclude some women. Seeing researchers affirm these truths will reassure not only transgender people but many others who have high hopes for feminism and want to learn about it. I'm certainly one of those people.

—This issue affects me personally. For now, I'm lucky to be able to conduct my research while surrounded by supportive professors and friends. But I must start looking for work, and it’s so painful to stare at the "sex" checkboxes on application forms and CVs. I want to help those people all over Japan who suffered as I did, who are still suffering, and I want others to help them too. Let this be a step forward for them and for my hopes for the future.

—Please tell people that trans women’s gender has nothing to do with their sexual orientation. Somehow, people are still managing to mistake trans women for gay men who like to wear women's clothes.

—I used to be connected to Ochanomizu University. I was happy with the decision to admit trans women, and astonished and angry to see trans women getting smeared in ways that show people do not understand how universities work. Men are already on campus at women's universities in many capacities, and women also commit crimes. I was comfortable at a women's university because I felt that I could live as just a person instead of being defined by my gender. The environment I enjoyed was the opposite of the exclusion that trans women face today.

—We cannot remain silent in the face of discrimination, and that should be how it always is. I support this statement.

5. Conclusion

We are deeply grateful that so many people have expressed their support for our statement. Many signatories commented that they oppose discrimination against and exclusion of transgender people precisely because feminism has helped them personally. They have high expectations for feminism. We find that incredibly encouraging.

The authors of this statement will continue to oppose any discourse or action that denies or demeans transgender people. The society we live in does not respect the dignity and rights of transgender people. We must create multilayered networks of people who understand why this is wrong and who want to make change. We must also leverage those networks to take action in various ways. We hope that this statement will become a catalyst for creating such networks in the places where we teach, work, and live.


The original Japanese version of this text can be found at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LLkLOlf1tIn3FlGsIZeLdi-SGjrUU740/view. For questions or comments about this statement, contact the statement authors at withtransgender@gmail.com. We thank Milena Popova (milena.popova@gmail.com) for sensitivity reading. Any remaining errors in the English translation are the responsibility of Nele Noppe (nele@unjapanologist.com).