Transgenderism in Japan

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Aya Kamikawa- Reformation in the land of conformity

Scholars have suggested that in the modern Japanese society, transgendered individuals (transgendered individuals and transsexuals are interchangeable and are referred to in the context of the Japanese society) are only valuable to the entertainment industry (Mackie 412, McLelland 167-168). In a country where mainstream conformity is promoted and preferred, any career outside of the entertainment and sex industries would seem impossible to pursue for a transgendered individual (Mackie 411-412). While transgendered individuals are more than welcome in the entertainment and sex industry due to the curiosity of the audiences and clients (Mackie 412, Mitsuhashi 211-215, Rosario 94-95), in the mainstream society the individuals tend to keep their transgender identities hidden (Mackie 414-415). An area that remains undiscussed is the relationship between transgenderism and politics. My research will give particular attention to Aya Kamikawa-the first and only transgendered individual elected as the municipal official in Tokyo, which happened in 2003, and her influence in the government regarding the transgendered community. I will examine her struggles and achievements through various news articles and blogs. Is having a transgendered politician beneficial to the Japanese transgendered community? How difficult and inconvenient is it for transgendered individuals to live in the country and how did Kamikawa improve their living conditions? And how does the general public react to a transsexual government official? Do they approve or disapprove?

Background Information on Aya Kamikawa
In 2003, a transgendered individual challenged the extremely conservative and conformative Japanese society by registering as an election candidate under the gender that’s listed differently from her family registry; her name is Aya Kamikawa (Setagaya). Kamikawa was born as a male in 1968. He worked in the PR (Public Relations) for a charitable organization after graduating from Hosei University the School of Business Administration (Aya). He resigned five years later due to the overwhelming stress from working as a male. After realizing trying to fulfill the social roles assigned to men are both exhausting mentally and physically, he began his transition into a woman through hormonal treatment (Aya). Just three years after, Kamikawa was diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (here after referred to as GID) and started working as a female staff at a private company. During those times she fought for the rights of transsexuals in Japan by organizing petitions and knocking on politicians’ doors-which all led to failures in the land where conformity and uniformity are viewed as virtues. Until one day she received some valuable advices from a member of the Diet (The Cabinet in Japan) stating that her voice will remain unheard unless she steps forward publically and declares her identity. The advice from the Diet member triggered Kamikawa’s decision of running for public office (Setagaya). She eventually won a place in the local assembly of Setagaya, one of Tokyo’s biggest local government areas.

Transgenderism in Modern Japanese Society
Life of a transsexual in Japan can sometimes be severely uncomfortable. From discriminations to employment issues, transgendered individuals face many obstacles in their everyday life that many of us can’t even begin to imagine. The existence of transsexuals in the mind of the average Japanese population is only acceptable in the entertainment and sex industries (McLelland 167). Comedians and gagmen who dress up as the opposite gender are welcomed and even praised in variety shows. They usually portray transsexuals as sexual deviants, trashy, and often made fun of for comic relieves (Mitsuhashi 202-204). Mackie adds that the popular media treats gender variant individuals as curiosities or exploit them for their entertainment values (Mackie...
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