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Japanese transgender man sues municipal gov't for prioritizing mother's wants before his

A transgender man who was a plaintiff in a lawsuit brought against the Shinjuku Ward Office, which ended in a settlement, is seen in Chiba Prefecture on Dec. 24, 2021. (Mainichi/Kazuhiro Toyama)

Is it permissible to dispose of hormones that a transgender man had with him for emotional stability, just because that was his mother's wish? Conflict between a sexual minority and his parents developed into a lawsuit that asked this question. The suit ended in a settlement, but upon speaking with sexual minorities, it became clear that many were troubled by their relationships with their parents.

    A resident of Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, the sex that the 36-year-old plaintiff in the case was assigned at birth was female, but he identifies as a man. From around the time he was 3 years old, he felt awkward about being treated as a girl. When he said that he wanted to become a driver of a Shinkansen bullet train, or that he wanted to wear pants instead of skirts, he was scolded by his mother, who told him: "Act more like a girl." Since he was around 13 years old, he suffered from symptoms of depression.

    In 2011, when he was 25 years old, he began giving himself male hormone injections -- which cause changes such as an increase in muscle mass and body hair. He eventually stabilized emotionally as well.

    The building that houses the Tokyo District Court and the Tokyo High Court is seen in this file photo. (Mainichi)

    He was living away from his parents' home, but around this time, he came out to his mother that he identified as a man. He explained that "sexual minorities make up about 5% of the population," but his mother refused to lend an ear to anything he said, and they became estranged. He could not have much of a conversation with his father, who had a stroke.

    He felt that being alone was lonely. He wanted a family to overcome difficulties with and hoped to have a child. Using a sperm bank, he underwent artificial insemination, and gave birth to a daughter in September 2016.

    After giving birth, he entered a welfare facility in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward that supports single mothers and others. Hoping to resume taking male hormones, which he had stopped taking while he was pregnant, he brought hormonal agents into the facility. He had not been formally diagnosed as having gender identity disorder, and he had procured the hormones through the internet. A staff member of a Shinjuku Ward welfare office who came to visit him at the request of his mother confiscated the hormones, which were then disposed of, saying, "They haven't been prescribed by a doctor."

    The ward office explained to him that his mother had asked that the hormones be disposed of. His mother had always been against the hormone injections, and had asked the ward to get rid of them.

    In March 2020, the man brought a lawsuit against the Shinjuku Ward Office to the Tokyo District Court for 1.5 million yen (approx. $13,000) in damages, arguing that the disposal of his hormonal agents amounted to "a violation of property rights." In October 2021, the district court advised the two parties to reach a settlement; one was reached with the ward office expressing regret over not sufficiently confirming the man's wishes. But there was no judgment made on whether the ward's actions were illegal.

    It is not uncommon for parents to have a difficult time accepting that their children are sexual minorities. According to an online survey targeting sexual minorities carried out by PR giant Dentsu Inc. in 2020, 10.9% said that their sexuality was not accepted by their fathers, while 12.4% said their sexuality was not accepted by their mothers. There were 7.8% who said that their fathers absolutely rejected their sexuality, while 6.8% said their mothers did the same.

    Tomoya Asanuma, the head of Trans Voice in Japan, a Tokyo-based organization that conducts awareness-raising activities to create a society that is more hospitable to transgender people, said, "Compared to before, the term LGBTQ is widely known, and more parents are understanding. But there are still a lot of parents who clash with their children over hormone treatments. Especially when the transgender person is a minor, the parents' views tend to override that of the child. It is necessary to understand what kind of views the person holds, and respond with their best interests in mind."

    (Japanese original by Kazuhiro Toyama, Tokyo City News Department)

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