On October 25, the 15-judge Supreme Court of Japan struck down a law stipulating that trans-identifying people must obtain a formal diagnosis of “Gender Identity Disorder” as well as undergo “sex change” surgeries prior to being able to officially change their sex on government documents such as family registries. The law, passed in 2003, required that those wishing to have official recognition of a change in sex must have had their “original reproductive organs” removed.
The unnamed plaintiff challenging the law first filed suit in 2000, claiming that “the surgery requirement forces a huge burden economically and physically and that it violates the constitution’s equal rights protections” after a request to change gender from male to female in the family registry was denied by lower courts. The 2003 law took effect in 2004, and states that “original reproductive organs” such as testicles and ovaries must be surgically removed so that the applicant has a body that “appears to have parts that resemble the genital organs” of the desired gender. The Wednesday decision requires the Japanese government to amend that law.
The 2000 case was not the first challenge to the law – only a few years ago, in 2019, Japan’s Supreme Court found the 2003 law constitutional in response to a challenge by a female seeking to formally register as male without undergoing the required surgeries. In the 2019 ruling, “the top court said the law was constitutional because it was meant to reduce confusion in families and society, though it acknowledged that it restricts freedom and could become out of step with changing social values and should be reviewed later.” That change, it seems, took only four years – although in the meantime, a lower court defied the law and approved a woman’s request to register as female without undergoing surgery.
LGBT groups are trumpeting the ruling as a significant victory over the “traditional paternalistic family values” of the Japanese government and a step towards fuller LGBT “equality.” Japan has long been a target of criticism from LGBT groups and pro-LGBT governments such as the Biden administration, which has put pressure on Japan to institute special protections for LGBT-identifying people and legalize same-sex “marriage.”
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, recently announced a bill to promote LGBT understanding to, according to Kyodo News, “showcase progress on the issue to his G-7 peers, with the country under mounting pressure.”
According to Kyodo News:
A survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows Japan ranked 34th out of 35 countries in terms of LGBT inclusion legislation in 2019, down from 22nd in 1999. In a recent video compilation of messages, 15 diplomatic missions in Japan, including those of the United States, Europe, and Australia, called on the Japanese government to take concrete action toward protecting LGBT rights ahead of the G-7 summit.
Japan, in short, has been bullied into shifting away from its socially conservative values.
There is more to this Supreme Court decision than meets the eye. With the removal of a law requiring that those who wish to change sex actually make an attempt to do so – which, granted, is impossible – Japan is moving in the direction of “self-identification,” in which people can simply change their gender by saying so. The policy implications of that are inevitable: men who claim to be women can gain access to female changerooms and bathrooms; men who claim to be women can be locked up in female prisons with fully functioning sex organs, putting women at risk; men can essentially access any female space on their say-so. What this ruling means is that even the term “transgender” is largely meaningless – essentially, it now means “whatever I say it means.”
That, of course, is the ultimate goal of the LGBT movement: to eliminate objective truth in favor of “my truth.” All boundaries must be eliminated – those around marriage, around sex, and around family. All countries still clinging to traditional values must become like us. On Wednesday, Japan got one step closer.