Transsexuality and Transgender in Japan

In 1969, a Japanese gynecologist was tried and found guilty of performing SRS for three MTF transsexuals. Since then, medical treatment, and even discussion of transsexuality, has been practically a taboo in Japan. For this reason some transsexuals have obtained their SRS abroad, while others have received hormonal therapy and/or SRS underground at home.

However, this situation is now changing. In 1998, Dr Harashina performed the first SRS in Japan that was legally admitted. Today, Japan has two gender clinics that perform SRS in Saitama Medical College and Okayama University Hospital. From 1998 to 2002 over 1000 transsexuals and transgenders came to gender clinics and about 20 transsexuals received SRS. However, because it takes long time to follow Japanese guidelines, there are still many transsexuals who receive SRS in other countries. It is estimated that there are about 500 postoperative transsexuals in Japan.

Change of sex registration of transsexuality is still very difficult. Recently, Saitama Family Court rejected an appeal of change of sex registration from an FTM who had received legally admitted SRS. The main reason for rejection is "biological etiology of transsexuality is not clear." In his decision, the judge stated: "I hesitate to admit the change of sex registration."

However, there is now a new movement in the Diet. Some lawmakers have set up a study team to make a new law about changing a transsexual's sex registration. Last year, Kinpachii Sensei, a very popular school television drama, spotlighted an FTM student and a famous professional boat-racer came out as an FTM. These nationwide topics teach us that Japanese have a positive attitude toward transsexuals and transgenders. With these developments, the situation for transsexuals and transgenders in Japan continues to improve. For additional discussion on sex reassignment surgery in Japan, see Ako et al. (2001).

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