Grade 6 student interviews LGBTQ+ people and creates a picture book for kids


Education about sexual minorities in Japanese schools is relatively non-existent. But a 6th grader named Ui hopes to educate kids about LGBTQ+ people with her picture book “So Everyone Can Smile” (みんなえがおになれますように).

Published in September by Gekkan, the 53-page book features whimsical artwork and interviews with LGBTQ+ people in a simple Q&A format. Along with everyday people, Ui has also met high-profile celebrities like former fencer and transgender activist Sugiyama Fumino and Japanese literature professor Robert Campbell.

Ui is no stranger to editing. She has already caused a sensation with “I love school: what to do before and after having become a student of primary school” (しょ う がっこう だいすき だいすき しょ うがく せい なる まで まで に やる と と こと こと いい いい いい いい いい いい いい いい いい いい いい いい いい いい いい いい いい いい いい いい いい。 うがく せい に なっ たら 、 やる やる いい こと。 しょ せい に なっ たら 、 やる と と と こと しょ せい に なっ たら 、 やる といいこと。), un guide préparatoire amusant pour les enfants entrant à l’école primaire , which sold 100,000 copies.

Ui wanted her new work to be a picture book specifically for children younger than her. “I did a lot of research and learned that a lot of elementary school kids, and even younger kids, struggle with gender identity,” she said. “I thought if people understood from an early age that everyone is a little different, then the bullying would stop.” [1]

“Do people like that really exist?”

Ui’s curiosity about LGBTQ+ people was first piqued in 3rd grade when she watched an online show about transgender people, which prompted her to ask her mom, “Do you do people like that really exist? The program left her with more questions than answers, so with her mother’s encouragement, Ui decided to shine a light on transgender people for her freelance summer research project. The result was a booklet containing interviews with 2 transgender people. “If kids like me knew more, we could change things,” she thought. [2].

The booklet led Ui to chat in a Forbes Japan interview with Taiwan’s Minister of Digital Affairs, Audrey Tang. Her conversation with Tang, who is transgender and non-binary, made a big impression on her. Tang compared humans to rainbows, with a subtle gradation unlike anyone else. This resonated with Ui, prompting her to reflect on what sets her apart from others. “There may be people who look alike, but no one has the same face. It must be like that with people’s hearts too. [1]

In her new book, she asked general questions like “What are transgender people struggling with?” and specific questions adapted to the homosexuality of its interview subjects. Ui composed the questions herself and asked them to her mother. Understanding that some of her questions may get into uncomfortable territory, Ui made sure to preface difficult questions with, “It may sound rude, but….” [1]demonstrating an empathy that many investigators could emulate.

LGBTQ+ education in Japan

Japanese pride and flags
Flags isolated on white background 3D

Ui is certainly not the only kid interested in the lives and struggles of LGBTQ+ people. So what is Japan doing to help kids like her who want to know more?

Awareness and support are spreading, but education remains fragile. In 2017, the government chose not to revise its curriculum guidelines to include sexual minorities, calling the subject “difficult” and citing a lack of understanding among parents and the public. [3]. Despite this, more and more textbooks contain information on sexual minorities.

LGBTQ+ issues may not be officially covered in compulsory education. However, that does not mean that there is a lack of interest in teaching it. Job Rainbow cites a 2013 survey in which 62.8% of teachers in six municipalities believe LGBTQ+ education should be incorporated into classroom learning [4].

On a more worrying note, 40% of teachers surveyed subscribed to the outdated belief that sexual orientation is a choice. Clearly, it is not only children, but also teachers and school staff who need support and education.

Misunderstandings about sexual minorities also continue to cloud public judgment and slow reform. This includes everything from politicians attributing the declining birth rate of sexual minorities in the country at the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric circulating in political conferences.

Children with LGBTQ+ parents have their own struggles and may be subject to bullying. Ui hopes to help children and change the negative perception of sexual minorities with her book: “I want to create a world where anyone can live as themselves and where different kinds of people can become friends.” We too hope with her.

Sources

[1] 「トランスジェンダー の 人 は 、 何 に 困っ て いる の?」 発売 前 増刷 も も… 小学 6 年生 による による による 多 性 の 絵 本 絵 本 が 話題 話題 が が が 話題 が が が 話題 話題 が が. Oricon News.

[2] 累計 10 万 部 『しょ う がっこう が だいすき』 の 作者 、 小学 小学 6 年生 の 作家 による 作 『みんな え が お に なれ よう に』 予約 受付 中! 中 中 中 中. PR time.

[3] LGBT生徒への支援、政府は絶好の機会を逸す~10年に一度の学習指導要領改訂 LGBTに触れず~. Yahoo! Japan.

[4] 何が違う?LGBTの教育事情【日本と海外を比較】. Job Rainbow JP.

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