It has been a year of triumphs and setbacks, gains and losses, and an ever-so-incremental step forward for issues of gender in Japan.
This country has always been a complex creature to the hundreds of thousands of queer people residing in it. As a place boasting one of the lowest violent crime rates in the world and one of the more positive public attitudes toward sexual and gender minorities, Japan offers a degree of physical safety for the LGBTQ community most of us cannot take for granted. At the same time, Japan has also made a name for itself among the G7 nations as the country with the fewest laws protecting LGBTQ minorities in the workplace, the only country not to recognize same-sex marriage, and the country with the worst track record for transgender rights and recognition.
First, the setbacks. The year 2023 saw the government pass its first-ever law explicitly addressing LGBTQ discrimination, but failed to prescribe any penalties for employers, schools or government institutions breaking this law. In May, a Nagoya district court ruled the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, but a few weeks later, a Fukuoka district court decreed the ban was constitutional. This was the year that the most inhumane restrictions on transgender people’s ability to legally transition — conditions that forced them to be sterilized — was finally revoked by Japan’s Supreme Court; however, it was also the year that the Tokyo Trans March was put on indefinite hiatus amid controversies surrounding its parent organization, Transgender Japan.