Landmark ruling in Japan allows trans man to legally change gender without surgery

This comes just months after the country's Supreme Court struck down a 2004 law that required people to undergo mandatory surgery for legal gender change.

This article is about a trans man in Japan achieving legal gender change without surgical sterilisation. The image shows a Japanese flag flying on a pole, with glass pannels of a building shown in the background.
Image: Roméo A. via Unsplash

A court in Japan has issued a landmark ruling, allowing a trans man to change his gender on official documents without undergoing mandatory surgery. The Tsuyama branch of the Okayama Family Court handed down the decision in favour of Tacaquito Usui on Wednesday, February 7, eight years after his application was first denied.

“I want to thank my family. I feel a new life is beginning,” he said following the ruling.

“I want to encourage others who are suffering the same way as myself to live their lives as they wish.”

According to The Japan Times, the trans man runs a farm in the village of Shinjo, where he lives with his partner and her 13-year-old son. Now that Usui has been granted permission to update his legal gender, the couple can now fulfil their wish to marry.

This milestone moment comes just months after Japan’s Supreme Court struck down a 2004 law that required a person’s reproductive organs, including testes or ovaries, to be removed for legal gender change. The legislation was challenged by a trans woman, who argued that the clause violated her constitutional right to live without discrimination and posed significant physical pain and financial burden to her and other members of her community.

The Supreme Court ruled in her favour on October 25, 2023, declaring the mandatory surgery requirement “unconstitutional” and stating that it “restricts a person’s free rights not to have their bodies invaded against their will.” It reversed a 2019 ruling by the same court that upheld the legislation.

As a result of the decision, Usui is now eligible to update his gender on official records due to fulfilling the so-called appearance criterion which was aided by his use of hormone therapy. The 50-year-old said the recognition has made him feel that “society has changed” and he is “moved by the progress that has been made”.

While there are no laws against same-sex activity, Japan remains the only G7 member state to not have marriage equality, with activists increasingly pushing for greater rights and protections from discrimination.

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