What the Diet’s been up to lately: revising the law of transgendered people

I’ve been looking at some of the bills passed by the Diet earlier this year, one of which amends a law which I should have known existed but had never seen before: the Act Regarding Special Provisions for the Treatment of the Gender of Persons With Gender Identity Disorder (性同一性障害者の性別の取扱いの特例に関する法律).

So now I can give a legal opinion on how to get a sex change in Japan. It’s a simple enough process to understand, although rather arbitrary. Here are the relevant provisions in full:

Article 2. Definitions

In this Act, “person with gender identity disorder” means a person who, despite having a clear biological gender, is persistently convinced that they are mentally of another gender (“other gender”), who has a desire to physically and socially conform themselves to the other gender, and with respect to whom two or more physicians having the knowledge and experience necessary to properly diagnose this [condition] have given corresponding diagnoses based on generally accepted medical viewpoints.

Article 3. Decision to Change Gender Treatment

A family court may decide to change the gender treatment of a person with gender identity disorder, upon that person’s request, who:
1. is twenty years of age or older;
2. is not presently married;
3. does not presently have children;
4. does not have reproductive glands or has permanently lost the function of the reproductive glands; and
5. has adopted a bodily appearance which closely resembles that of the other gender in the area of the genital organs.

The law also amended the family registration laws to allow a person who has undergone a legal sex change to have a new koseki issued reflecting their new sex.

The new amendment changes item 3 of Article 3 to read “does not presently have minor children.” It was apparently pushed by the DPJ and JCP with the LDP staying completely mum on the issue (per Yahoo Minna no Seiji). The bill passed nonetheless and is effective December 18 of this year.

Incidentally, since we haven’t mentioned it on Mutantfrog yet, Japan happens to have one of the few transgendered elected officials in the world: Setagaya city councilwoman Aya Kamikawa. Kamikawa was first elected in 2003, a year before the transgender statute was passed; while she was legally male at that time, she purportedly refused to fill in her gender on the candidate application form, and thus appeared on the ballot as genderless. She completed the family court process in 2005 and is now legally female. (I am an Aya fan, if only because she has a comical domain name and an equally comical physical resemblance to Ann Coulter.)

3 thoughts on “What the Diet’s been up to lately: revising the law of transgendered people”

  1. Just to keep a different topic alive, here’s an article on policy in Taiwan:


    A government policy in Taiwan has made it more difficult for transgenders to get an ID, creating panic in the community. The policy, which went into effect last year, stipulates that female-to-male transgenders cannot get an ID card that identifies them as male unless they have undergone all three parts of gender reassignment surgery. Transgender rights organizations in Taiwan have asked the government to withdraw the policy. Xukuan Gao, spokesperson for the transgender organization Taiwan TG Butterfly Garden, pointed out that in the past, a female-born Taiwanese person who had had her breasts, womb and ovaries removed – the first stage of a three-part surgery, was recognized as a “he” and received a new male ID from the government. But since last October, Taiwan’s government decided not to issue a male ID until the transgender completes all three stages of the surgery, including the last step in which the person gets a surgical penis. There is no similar barrier added for male-born Taiwanese who have surgery to become women, reports Taiwan’s United Daily News.

  2. At the risk of getting gory, I think the same reasoning might apply in Japan as well, since they demand that the nether regions of the applicant resemble those of the new gender. If you aren’t hung yet, you don’t resemble a man. It is unfair in a sense, since the process is more difficult in one direction than in the other. At the same time, it’s pretty fair to demand that the process be completed no matter which direction is in question. Even if a woman loses her breasts and reproductive organs, she is still physically a woman as far as any disinterested observer in the locker room is concerned.

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