Being Yourself as LGBT <1> The Workplace: Being Repeatedly Turned Down
Getting a full time job and marrying a women. To others, this may appear to be a modest dream. For someone like Ren-san (not his real name) of Kumamoto City, who has had to overcome many various battles throughout his life, this is a rather big goal.
Ren is transgender. He was born in a female body, but identifies as male. He hated wearing skirts since he was a child. With a rough voice and masculine manner of speaking, he suffered severe bullying in school.
He thought that things would become easier upon graduating, but the reality was anything but. He could not find a place to work. Every time Ren went to an interview, the difference between his appearance and the name and gender listed on his resume always caused the interviewers to appear doubtful and suspicious of him. He was repeatedly told that “the service industry is difficult” and repeatedly refused jobs at places such as convenience stores or gas stations.
Even when he finally found a job, Ren was asked to appear more feminine, but it became difficult for him to feign self-confidence while doing so. He thought that his working situation would improve if he came out, but when he complained about severe menstrual pain at a job that required him to stand for a long time, his coworker yelled, “Aren’t you a man?”
Without holding any position for a long time, Ren has changed workplaces many times, working at a delivery company, a parts factory, as a driver and as a beautician.
50% of LGBT people in Japan have experienced stress regarding their sexuality or partner when it comes to finding work or changing their workplaces and 70% have witnessed or experienced discriminatory speech and conduct in their workplaces.
Osaka based NPO Nijiiro Diversity and the Center for Gender Studies at International Christian University drew these conclusions from a survey conducted during February and March of 2014.
The representative for this organization, Maki Muraki says “We received data suggesting the will to continue working is lower at workplaces that discriminate against LGBT people rather than at those that don’t. This indicates that companies should strive to recognize LGBT people rather than turn a blind eye towards them.
The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, revised the sexual harassment guidelines of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law in July of 2014 to read “sexual harassment can also include interactions between the same sex.”
Created with the purpose of raising awareness towards the division of tasks based on gender roles, the law covers sexual harassment, discriminatory speech and conduct, and has expanded the definition of sexual harassment to cover LGBT people as well.
Now, Ren has been working a part-time security job for two years. His job granted his request to be treated as a man, and while the job is physically tough, it’s an easy job. He can use the men’s restroom and can’t remember facing any discriminatory language. He also enjoys carefree conversation with his coworkers.
However, life is difficult. Ren spends his days working non-stop to support his girlfriend and child. He leaves at 7:00am and returns at 7:00pm. He only has two days off a month. He gets by eating ¥108 bread for lunch. He has no pension, and is on his parents health insurance.
In order to get married, Ren needs to change his gender to male on his family registry. However, in order to do so, he must undergo gender reassignment surgery, but he is unable to put the money aside for it. Unable to do anything, he continues his busy routine.
In Japan, it is said that 1 out of 20 people is LGBT. Many of these people face prejudice and discrimination. In recent years, the number of companies that have taken into the consideration the importance of diversity has increased.
What do we need to create a society where we can be ourselves at work? We must take into account the voices of the affected parties.