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University starts work on unisex dormitories for sexual minorities

An artist's impression of a new dorm at International Christian University designed with LGBT students in mind. (Image provided by International Christian University)

International Christian University (ICU) in Mitaka, Tokyo, has begun work on building dormitories with top floors that will allow students of any sex to move in, in order to better accommodate people with gender identity disorder or other sexual minorities.

    The university has been an early adopter in Japan of policies friendly to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students. In the 2003 academic year, ICU began allowing transgender students to change their name and sex on their student records, and in the 2004 academic year it set up a gender studies center. ICU also allows students to individually take health examinations instead of as a group, and has set up unisex restrooms and individual changing rooms.

    Currently, the university has nine dorms on the campus. One of them, the "Global House" international dorm, whose construction was completed in the 2001 academic year, was the first to have both male and female students in the same building, as is common at European and American universities. The four dorms built since then have all accepted both male and female students, divided by floor. One of the other dorms is all-male, and the other three are all-female. There is also one dorm for married graduate student couples.

    The new dorms -- a seven-story one and a five-story one -- are indifferent to one's sex. Non-LGBT students can also live there. Shower booths will be installed on all floors for students who do not want to use the large bathing rooms together with other students. The new dorms were designed under the supervision of architect Kengo Kuma and Nihon Sekkei, Inc. Work on the dorms is beginning this month, and it is scheduled to open in April 2017.

    ICU President Junko Hibiya says, "More municipalities are issuing certificates for same-sex couples, and there are going to be increasing expectations to respond to the needs of LGBT people. I want to do more to eliminate gender barriers at the college."

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