Japan’s Transgender Community

by Guest Contributor Monica Roberts, originally posted at TransGriot

fujio

Japan is a giant in terms of its economic, technological, industrial, and medical prowess, but when it comes to treating transgender people lagged behind the rest of the world. The first sex reassignment surgery in Japan (for an F to M) didn’t take place until 1998 and was followed up by the first M to F surgery a year later.

If you’re an anime fan there are numerous titles that have transgender characters such as my fave series You’re Under Arrest which features transgender Tokyo police officer Aoi Futaba. But unfortunately real life transgender people in Japan have been reluctantly hiding in the shadows in a culture that prizes conformity.

Things are changing in Japan as it make moves to grant more personal freedom to its citizens, and the Japanese transgender community is a beneficiary of this openness.

It’s estimated that there are 7,000 to 10,000 transgender people in Japan, and while it seems that the ascension of Japanese transpeople has been meteoric, much of what has happened was the result of years of behind the scenes work.

In 2003 Aya Kamikawa became the first (and so far only) transgender person elected to public office in Japan when she won a place on the local assembly for Setagaya, one of Tokyo’s biggest local government areas. She has played a key role in lobbying for changes at both the national and local levels, including the 2004 gender change law. Kamikawa has also successfully lobbied to eliminate unnecessary mentions of gender in public documents and was reelected in 2008 to serve a second four year term.

aya2

Following on the heels of Kamikawa’s historic political victory were groundbreaking legal reforms in 2004 that allowed some transsexuals to change their officially registered sex. Unfortunately the law only allows unmarried, childless applicants to change their official gender. In addition, applicants also must have had SRS and been diagnosed by two doctors as having gender identity disorder.

That has resulted in only 151 people officially changing their gender codes between July 2004, when the law took effect, and the end of March 2005, according to Japan’s Justice Ministry.

Despite the victories, there’s still some stigma attached to being transgender in Japan, although that is slowly being overcome. “As long as we keep silent, nothing is going to change,” said Kamikawa. “We need the courage to make a society which respects diversity.”

About This Blog

Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

Comments on this blog are moderated. Please read our comment moderation policy.

Use the "for:racialicious" tag in del.icio.us to send us tips. See here for detailed instructions.

Interested in writing for us? Check out our submissions guidelines.

Follow Us on Twitter!

Support Racialicious

The Octavia Butler Book Club

The Octavia Butler Book Club
(Click the book for the latest conversation)

Recent Comments

Feminism for Real – Jessica, Latoya, Andrea

Feminism for Real

Yes Means Yes – Latoya

Yes Means Yes

Sex Ed and Youth – Jessica

Youth and Sexual Health

OMLN

Online Media Legal Network

Recent Posts

Support Racialicious

Older Archives

Tags

Written by: