Cultivating Safe Space for Queer Students in Japanese Universities

Friday, 20 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Tianqi ZHANG, Kyushu University, Japan
Over the past few years, Japanese people’s acceptance of homosexuality has been gradually increasing (PEW Global Research 2007, 2013) and some progress can be seen in terms of visibility of queer individuals and efforts for marriage equality. In spite of these achievements, surveys by The Life Respect White Ribbon Campaign (2014), UNESCO (2015), and Human Right Watch (2016) show that queer youth in Japan frequently reported feeling unsafe and many of them had experienced bullying at school which may lead to negative impact on their well-being.

As most of these studies focused on elementary school or high school students, not much existing literature has examined life experiences and issues of queer students on Japanese campuses. As a matter of fact, about four-fifths of high school graduates continue their education in colleges or universities (MEXT 2012). Therefore, it is likely that queer students of universities may share similar bullying experiences as in those of elementary and secondary schools.

Historically, queer student groups function as a key resource for queer students seeking support and opportunities for activism (Beemyn 2003; Wall, Kane & Wisneski 2010). And currently, over 100 active queer student groups exist on Japan campuses (Naver Matome 2017). By analyzing surveys and in-depth interviews with queer student group leaders, participants, and people concerned about the group rules, disciplines, and activities, we aim to explain how these queer student groups function in Japanese universities. In addition, by looking at external factors, such as the involvement of international students, faculty members, institutions, social networking, off-campus events, etc., and using Actor-Network Theory as a methodology, we draw connections between different components to find out how safe space for queer university students can be cultivated.