A transsexual activist will serve as a part-time lecturer at the medical school of Mie University, a public school, in November to educate students on sexual identity disorder.
“I’m looking forward to sharing with the students my experience of undergoing a sex-change operation and the various problems that transsexuals face, such as altering gender in our family registers,” Masae Torai said.
The 38-year-old freelance writer from Tokyo, who switched from female to male in the United States in the late 1980s, has given lectures at some 50 universities and colleges all over Japan, but the new post “will be my first experience as a formal lecturer,” he said.
Torai said that six people, including himself, who have undergone sex-change operations have filed civil suits at the Tokyo Family Court and two other family courts seeking to have their new genders recorded in their family registers.
“I am planning to submit a video of my lecture at the medical school to the court as proof that a public institution accepts the existence of transsexuals,” he said.
Japanese citizens are required by law to be entered on a family registration document. Torai is still registered as female.
Torai was given the part-time post at the medical school as part of an annual program under which 17 lecturers, including a gay high school teacher and a hermaphrodite, will talk about diversity in sexuality, said Takeo Shimazu, a physiology instructor.
While consultations for transsexuals have been increasing since the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology introduced guidelines for sex-change operations in May 1997, “Doctors have been at a loss about how to face such patients,” Shimazu said.
The guidelines say patients should receive psychiatric counseling and hormone therapy before undergoing a sex-change operation.
Shimazu also said he knows a transsexual medical student who decided to become a doctor after being unable to find anyone in the medical profession with an understanding of sexual identity disorder.
“I expect Japanese society to show more understanding toward sexual minorities, such as gays and transsexuals, and doctors should be front-runners in this. I hope the series of lectures by Torai and others will provide the prospective doctors with opportunities to meet these people,” he said.
According to Torai, who heads a private organization of transsexuals called FTM (female to male) Nippon, 14 transsexuals have undergone sex-change operations at Saitama Medical College and Okayama University under the guidelines.
However, as their genders in the family registers remain unchanged, they face difficulties in ordinary life, he said.
It is impossible for transsexuals in relationships to enjoy the social benefits granted ordinary married couples, and some opt for part-time work to avoid having to submit to their employers their residence certificates revealing their preoperative gender, he said.
Public interest in transsexuals has grown recently, with a popular TV drama focusing on a junior high school student with gender identity disorder, and a motorboat race association accepting a transsexual racer as a male — his postoperative gender.
Transsexuals are defined by the World Health Organization as those who have a desire “to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by a sense of discomfort with, or inappropriateness of, one’s anatomical sex, and a wish to have surgery and hormonal treatment to make one’s body as congruent as possible with one’s preferred sex.”