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A hidden trap in the health-based approach to transgender phenomenon in Japan

A hidden trap in the health-based approach to transgender phenomenon in Japan

Despite numerous historical examples of the roles and acceptance of gender-crossing within Japanese culture from as early as the 4th Century, modernization has come with a stigmatization of the transgender phenomenon and homosexuality outside of the confines of show business. However, a significant development occurred in mid-1990’s when an ethics committee of a private university officially recognized the legitimacy of Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) as a treatment for Gender Identity Disorder (GID). This was later followed by the enactment of “Law Concerning Special Cases in Handling Gender Status for People with GID” (Law No.111; July 16, 2003).

As a result, the situation surrounding transgender people changed dramatically and social attention to the transgender phenomenon has become focused heavily on medical issues. This health-based approach has been successful to the extent that society has at least developed a tolerance for a discussion of the needs of people diagnosed with GID who fit in the traditional gender dichotomy.

Ideally, this is an initial step for Japanese society to move forward to embrace more diverse transgender people and to recognize and meet their needs as well. However, little evidence can be found to suggest further societal changes or advances, and members of the younger generation may connect with the medical establishment before they encounter diverse trans-/sexual minority communities and explore the full range of available options and possibilities. The movement over depathologization of transgender phenomenon and related discussion in the international community are not well reflected in Japan.

In this presentation, key historical events related to the transgender phenomenon are reviewed leading to a discussion of the impact of the medical conceptualization of GID on the current status and issues surrounding transgender people who fight for sexual rights in Japan.

Areas of Interest / Categories: WAS 2013

WAS 2013

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