• Kyodo


The Osaka Family Court has approved the adoption of a 3-year-old boy by a woman in her 30s who changed her sex from male due to gender identity disorder (GID), the woman said Wednesday.

It is believed to be the first case in Japan in which a woman who has changed her gender has been approved as a legal mother through an adoption program.

When they apply to become foster parents, people with GID are sometimes questioned about their capability of forging “healthy parent-child ties.”

The Osaka case will “offer a new option for those with GID who want to have children,” said Mikiya Nakatsuka, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Okayama University and head of the Japanese Society of Gender Identity Disorder.

“This also represents a major move when it comes to considering the diversity of gender and family.”

The Osaka Prefecture woman, who asked not to be named, altered her sex after a special law was enacted in 2004 to allow GID patients to change their registered gender and legally marry. She then married a man.

Consulting with a welfare group and going through the process of becoming a foster parent in 2010, she was matched with a boy from a foster home and took him into her home in spring 2011. After filing for adoption she obtained the court’s approval in winter 2012.

The adoption program she used in principle allows children under 6 years old to be adopted by foster parents after family court adjudication. It terminates the children’s ties with their birth parents and treats them as the natural children of their foster parents in the family registry.

The program, in which hospitals or private mediation firms act as intermediaries, sees around 300 to 400 adoptions a year, according to Justice Ministry statistics.

In connection with the parent-child ties involving people with GID, the Supreme Court in December recognized a man who had a sex-change operation as the legal father of a child born to his wife through in vitro fertilization using a donor’s sperm.

In principle, women in Japan who have changed their sex from male and wish to become mothers have no choice but to marry men with a child or adopt a child, because surrogate births are not carried out in Japan. However, since many couples are applying to become foster parents and child consultation centers have to prioritize potential parents, people with GID tend to be ranked lower on the list.

“While I encountered many cruel circumstances, I have faced them squarely without running away,” the Osaka woman said. “I hope other people will follow in my steps.”

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