Photo/IllutrationTakakito Usui, right, answers questions from reporters with his partner, Miyuki Yamamoto, in Tsuyama, Okayama Prefecture, on Feb. 7. (Nana Ogawa)

TSUYAMA, Okayama Prefecture--A transgender man’s plea to have his sex changed legally without undergoing sterilization was declined by a family court here. The man immediately appealed the decision.

Takakito Usui, who was born female, argued that the law requiring sterilization is “unconstitutional” as it violates the Constitution’s guarantee of people’s right to be respected as individuals.

But in the decision dated Feb. 6, the Tsuyama branch of the Okayama Family Court said the sterilization requirement “is not unreasonable to the extent of violating the Constitution.”

Usui, 43, who lives in the village of Shinjo in the prefecture, criticized the law for being “out of touch with reality” during an interview on Feb. 7.

“The law is not fit to cover all cases because the circumstances surrounding people dealing with gender identity issues are widely varied,” he said. “I hear some people who underwent operations came to regret them.”

He added: “The essential thing should not be whether you have had an operation or not, but how you want to live as an individual.”

Sterilization is required by law in cases where transgender people, who are considered to suffer from “gender identity disorder” under Japanese law, want to have their sex changed in the family register. The law took effect in 2004.

Usui, who lodged his appeal against the decision at the Okayama branch of the Hiroshima High Court, has been living with his girlfriend, Miyuki Yamamoto, 39, and her son, 6, since spring last year.

He is hoping to marry her as a man by having his sex officially changed to male.

At the age of 39, he was diagnosed with GID. He later had his name in the family register changed to his current masculine-sounding name.

Following hormone treatment, he developed manly characteristics and features, such as a deep voice and a muscular physique.

But Usui opted out of an operation to remove his ovaries and uterus despite the legal requirement.

In the case Usui filed at the family court in December, he disputed the constitutionality of the law requiring sterilization.

“The law violates Article 13 of the Constitution because it requires (invasive) surgery that does tremendous damage to a person’s body and, therefore, is invalid,” he argued.

Defending the law, the court said, “It is interpreted that the operation requirement was based on the understanding that keeping the reproductive ability of the sex an individual was born as is not appropriate.”

A survey by the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology found that about 20 percent of 15,000 individuals who consulted experts about their gender identity issue between 2004 and 2012 had their sex changed in the family registry after undergoing the required operations.

Experts say many stick to the sex they are born as due to the hurdle posed by the sterilization operation requirement.

In some cases, they added that people with a gender identity problem feel they have no choice but to go in for surgery to marry or for their work.

The Justice Ministry said the surgery requirement was put in place to avoid "various confusion and problems that would arise when a child was born because of the reproductive ability retained from the former sex.”

However, many specialists argue that freedom to live in the gender individuals identify with, regardless of whether they have had surgery, should be protected as a basic human right.

Countries where the operation is not required for sex change include Britain, Argentina, Germany and France. It is not a requirement also in some U.S. states.

The World Health Organization issued a statement calling for the abolition of requiring sterilizations in 2014, saying it is a violation of human rights.

Article 13 of the Constitution reads: "All of the people shall be respected as individuals. Their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness shall, to the extent that it does not interfere with the public welfare, be the supreme consideration in legislation and in other government affairs."

(This article was written by Nana Ogawa and Yuki Nikaido.)