Japanese court allows trans man to update gender on official docs without surgery in landmark case


Months after Japan’s Supreme Court struck down part of a law requiring transgender people to undergo surgery to have their gender legally recognized, a court in the western part of the country has ruled that a trans man can update his gender on official documents without undergoing surgical sterilization.

Okayama family court’s Tsuyama branch handed down the ruling Wednesday in favor of 50-year-old Tacaquito Usui, according to The Guardian. Usui initially applied to have his gender updated in his family registry five years ago, but his request was denied. This week, the court ruled that because he has been receiving hormone therapy, Usui’s documents can be updated to reflect his gender.

“It’s like I’m standing at the start line of my new life,” Usui said at a news conference following the ruling. “I’m so excited.”

The decision comes after Japan’s Supreme Court struck down part of a 2003 law mandating the absence of reproductive organs in order to change one’s gender on official documents, effectively requiring trans people to undergo surgical sterilization. In October, the court’s 15-judge Grand Bench ruled unanimously that the requirement was unconstitutional.

In that case, brought before the court on behalf of a transgender woman, lawyers for the plaintiff argued that because she had undergone years of hormone therapy, which resulted in an “extreme decline” in her reproductive abilities, she meets the law’s requirements without having to undergo surgery.

The ruling, however, did not address other aspects of the 2003 law, which also requires trans people seeking to update their official documents to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria by at least two doctors, undergo gender-affirming surgery, be unmarried, and have no children under 18. As the Associated Press noted last year, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the high court to further examine the law’s broader surgical requirement.

Earlier in October, a Japanese family court had already ruled in favor of Gen Suzuki, a 48-year-old transgender man who filed a lawsuit in 2021 seeking to update his gender on official documents without having to undergo gender affirmation surgery.

In its decision, which set only a limited precedent, the court agreed with Suzuki’s argument that the 2003 law’s surgical requirements are both inhumane and unconstitutional. The court characterized the law as outdated and counter to efforts to create a more inclusive society amid growing acceptance of gender diversity.

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Originally published here.

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