A former male in his 40s who lives in Chigasaki, Kanazawa Prefecture, changed his legal gender to female in 2006 after undergoing sex change surgery but is now deeply regretting it.

She has repeatedly filed an application to a family court to restore her previous gender, but has been rejected by the court, which cited “there is no reason to accept the petition.”

“To keep living as a woman is extremely distressing,” she said. “I want to somehow have my original legal gender restored.”

Since the special law that allows people who have gender identity disorder to legally change their gender was enforced in 2004, more than 6,900 applications for a sex change have been approved as of the end of 2016.

However, as more legal transsexual cases were approved, instances where those who had second thoughts began to surface. To begin with, the law was not written with such a “change of heart” possible, and for now, there is no legal way to revert their legal gender back to their original.

Some experts urge that new rules are needed as a legal recourse for those who run into trouble because of their decisions.

In Japan, to change the gender written on the family register, one must fulfill several criteria set out in the special law. The criteria includes that one needs to be 20 years or older; must obtain a diagnosis of gender identity disorder from two or more doctors; must be single at the time of the application and change; must have had sex change surgery; and must not have a child under 20.

According to the former male in Chigasaki, she said she applied for a sex change when she was “in a mentally unstable condition.”

She said she suffered from stammering since childhood. When she was feeling like a social outcast around 2000, she became acquainted with a number of people with gender identity disorder.

They confidently expressed their belief that “it is wrong that their presence was not legally recognized.”

She started to identify with others with a gender identity disorder and considered that she had “the same problem condition.” She had sex change surgery to remove male genitalia in Thailand in 2003.

As the special law that allows a legal change of gender took effect in 2004, she saw psychotherapists.

After a dozen or so examinations, she received the diagnosis of having a gender identity disorder from multiple doctors. She filed an application for a change of legal gender to the Yokohama Family Court, which was granted in July 2006.

However, she soon regretted the decision.

After her legal gender was changed, she could not find a job. Whereas, when she was a man, she could find one easily, she said.

Thinking it was due to the change in her gender status, she consulted with a lawyer to change it back, but was advised that it would be “difficult under the current system.”

She finally landed a job at a bread factory in July 2017 and is currently living away from her parents. She joined the business as a female on paper, but with the understanding from the company, she presents herself as a male at work.

Another transgender who changed their sex in 2011 filed a petition with a family court in the Kansai area in June 2017 to revert their gender back to the original.

According to Kazuyuki Minami, the attorney, the person decided to receive hormone injections and have a sex change surgery, as well as to change their legal sex status. However, his client is now regretting the decision.

“I mistakenly believed as I was in a confusing time of my life and just pushed my way through,” Minami quoted the person as saying.

“Many aspects of life are often dictated by the sex specified in the family register,” Minami said. “If they are feeling they cannot take it anymore, it is cruel to just say it is their fault and ignore it. The judicial system needs to rectify the underdeveloped law that did not see requests for retraction coming.”

According to statistics compiled by the Supreme Court, there were 6,906 individuals who were granted a legal sex change under the law as of 2016. The number is growing year by year, and the annual figure has hovered around 800 for the past few years.

As for why the law has no clause on reverting back to the original gender, a Justice Ministry official in charge of the system explained that “the law was not made with reversion in mind,” as “Japanese law requires applicants to have a sex change surgery before granting the change, and it acts as a brake for those who have doubts about their decisions.”

However, according to the ministry, there has been a “cancellation” of the change by a court in July 2013 based on the reasoning that “the person wrongly believed which gender was their own, and the doctor’s diagnosis was incorrect.”

According to Katsuki Harima, who runs the Harima Mental Clinic in Tokyo and has seen many cases of gender identity disorder, there have been cases of reversion overseas, including in Germany, and he knows about five people in Japan who are wanting to revert back to their original genders.

“There are simple cases of gender identity confusion, but are also cases of individuals, who felt uncomfortable in their lives for some reasons, mistakenly attributed their problems to gender identity disorder,’" Harima said.

He also pointed out such “mistakes” partially stem from difficulties surrounding the diagnosis of intangible conditions.

“It is possible that doctors made a misdiagnosis based on what their patients strongly insisted,” Harima said. “Especially when they have already undergone sex change surgery.”

Junko Mitsuhashi, a part-time lecturer of sexual cultural history at Meiji University and a transgender herself, expects that such mistakes will only increase as there are much fewer hurdles now to change one's legal gender than immediately after the special law took effect.

“Changing one's legal sex status repeatedly is not desirable, but perhaps this one-way road needs to provide a way back as an exception,” she said.