Japanese court grants transgender man gender change without sterilisation surgery; marking significant progress in LGBTQ+ rights

Japanese court grants transgender man gender change without sterilisation surgery, marking progress in LGBTQ+ rights in a much conservative country.

In a groundbreaking decision, a court in western Japan has granted a transgender man’s request to legally change his gender without the need for sterilisation surgery. Tacaquito Usui, aged 50, received approval from the Okayama family court’s Tsuyama branch on Wednesday, allowing him to update his gender marker in official records to male. This marks the first known ruling of its kind following the Japanese supreme court’s overturning of the surgery requirement for gender changes.

Usui’s initial application for gender revision was rejected five years ago, but the recent court ruling has paved the way for him to embark on what he described as “the start line of my new life.” Speaking at a news conference after the verdict, Usui expressed his excitement and gratitude for the court’s decision.

The Japanese supreme court’s landmark ruling in October deemed the provision of a 20-year-old law, which mandated the removal of reproductive organs for legal gender recognition, unconstitutional. However, the ruling specifically addressed the sterilisation requirement and did not address the constitutionality of other mandatory procedures.

The Okayama court, in its judgement, recognised the hormone therapy undergone by Usui as sufficient grounds for gender affirmation. Usui welcomed this recognition, highlighting the potential evolution of Japanese laws ahead of public awareness.

Despite this progress, many LGBTQ+ individuals in Japan continue to conceal their sexual orientations and gender identities due to fears of discrimination in workplaces and schools. Japan remains the sole Group of Seven member state that prohibits same-sex marriage.

Activists advocating for greater rights and protections for LGBTQ+ communities have faced slow progress in a country governed by conservative values and traditional norms. The law that was addressed by the supreme court took effect in 2004, mandating the removal of reproductive organs and certain physical characteristics resembling the gender identity expressed by individuals seeking gender change.

According to court documents from a separate case, over 10,000 Japanese citizens have officially changed their gender since the law’s enactment. A central Japan court highlighted the disparity by noting that sterilisation surgery is not mandatory in most of the approximately 50 European and central Asian countries with similar gender recognition laws. The recent ruling signifies a significant step towards greater inclusivity and recognition of transgender rights in Japan.