If you want to challenge gender perceptions, what better place than the restroom, where they’re most on view? By arranging gender messages on posters and labels in stalls and over urinals, we brought the issue to an audience that had no choice but confront it.

Located in the conservative heart of Japan, Ryukoku University is a 378-year-old Buddhist school that teaches about 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year in the fields of the humanities, science and engineering. Transgender equality is deeply enshrined in Buddhism, in particular due to the teachings of Shinran, a Japanese monk. By partnering with Ryukoku, we were able to connect traditional Buddhist views on equality to this most modern of issues.

Restrooms are not associated with bright colors and interactive media. We used both. Our campaign stopped conversation mid-flow, and made students think about what it would be like to be true to the real person inside, rather than the one they show the world. The labels flew off the restroom walls and onto bags, books, phones, and social media. From here, like bright emissaries of equality, they scattered outward into the city and country.

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