SUPREME COURT DESTROYING ESSENCE OF JAPAN
Human thought and practices naturally continue to evolve with the changing times. At each turning point in Japanese history, our forefathers wanted to make sure that the changes they were initiating would be consistent with the history and culture created by their predecessors. In exchanges with the Chinese in the past, they resolutely refused to accept customs and systems that did not suit Japan, such as female foot binding and the Imperial examination system, a merit-based method of selecting officials in dynastic China. Instead, they implemented what the Chinese lacked at the time—values based on the principle of “banmin hozen,” i.e., protecting all people.
Following a crushing defeat in the Greater East Asian War in 1945, however, our constitution, the ways of our royal family, and the civic law that directly affected our lives were forced to change. Against this backdrop, approximately 80 years have passed as unfamiliar values that essentially do not fit in Japan have been introduced.
Observing recent social changes our political and judiciary circles are plotting to create, I cannot but think our leaders have become aliens far removed from our roots. Pressured by a liberal American administration, I wonder if our leaders aren’t trying to change Japanese society by force, beyond just accepting “advanced” ideas and systems, making Japan lean to the left and create laws that do not even exist in the US or Europe.
On top of the list of such laws is the “LGBT understanding bill” enacted on June 23. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida forcibly had the bill drafted for his own sake—and then pushed it through the Diet. Japan has thus become the only nation among the advanced nations with a sexual minority rights law, which has led to new measures that include the installation of genderless restrooms, causing strong confusion and backlash among the ordinary women who make up the bulk of Japan’s female population.
The nation’s mistakes did not stop there. On July 11, the Petty Bench of our Supreme Court handed down a startling decision in a case involving a trans woman.
The plaintiff is a biological male in his 50s with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), who confessed at work that although born a male, he is a female at heart. He has received hormone therapy but had not undergone gender reassignment surgery (GRS). Working in a female outfit, the person asked to be allowed to use the ministry’s female restrooms on the same floor without any restrictions.
The five judges unanimously declared as illegal a restrictive use of female restrooms imposed on him by the METI. He had only been allowed to use the female restrooms at least two floors up or down from his workplace.
“Reverse Discrimination” against Women
But each of the judges gave a supplemental opinion. Ms. Satsuki Katayama, a Lower House lawmaker with the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP), criticized the judgment, describing them as “wishy washy” during her appearance on my Friday night “Genron” Internet TV news show on July 21.
In attaching his opinion, presiding judge Yukihiko Imasaki noted that the top court’s decision dealt strictly with a specific trans woman’s case and should therefore not be applied to general cases, stressing: “I do not think there exists a consensus in our society today that unconditionally accepts a matter of this nature (a free use of female restrooms by trans women). There will inevitably be a situation where the consent of the parties concerned cannot be obtained.”
In other words, the presiding judge himself admitted that the feelings of those who have doubts about or feel uncomfortable with a universal use of women’s restrooms by trans women are not reflected in the decision.
Scholar-turned judge Katsuya Uga observed: “We cannot justify restricting the advantages of a particular trans woman using ladies’ restrooms based on self-gender identity under the same conditions as other women employees in her workplace.” He then added a note, stating that if female colleagues feel uncomfortable or embarrassment with the plaintiff’s use of a women’s toilet, it is because of a lack of understanding of the matter on the part of the women at work and that such sentiments should be rectified through training.
But isn’t this “reverse discrimination” against women who have doubts or feel uncomfortable about trans women using restrooms for women only? As I have earlier noted, the party in question is physically male, not having undergone GRS.
The Supreme Court decision has absolute authority in Japan which nobody can resist. It has handed down a “progressive” judgment seen in very few countries in the world. But this ruling is out of step with the values and commonly accepted practices of Japanese society. If that is the case, we Japanese must educate ourselves more: that’s what the court demands. It is saying the Japanese people must undergo a substantial change by abiding by the judgment it has rendered. It is stunning how far the court has deviated from the path justice should take. Let’s compare this with cases in the US.
Observed Yoichi Shimada, an honorary professor at Fukui Prefectural University and a planning committee member of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals (JINF), a privately financed conservative policy and security think tank I head in Tokyo:
“The US Supreme Court has been extremely careful in addressing gender identity issues. As regards transgender males or females and their use of restrooms, it still is premature for the US top court to render a judgment, as the values of residents of each state differ significantly and not enough debate has been held in Congress. The US government has assumed a guarded stance and will not make a judicial decision anytime soon.”
I don’t think the lawmakers who pushed ahead with the LGBT legislation, from the prime minister down, have a real understanding of gender-related issues. And our lawmakers have not conducted enough debate about them in the Diet.”
Social Perplexity Ignored by Supreme Court
First of all, LGB and T are distinct from each other. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals have the right to freely choose their sexual orientation, and it is not something others should meddle with. However, being transgender is different. Commented Hisashi Matsumoto, a Lower House lawmaker who is a medical doctor in his own right:
“Transgender individuals can be broadly classified into three categories. The first category is when young children, mainly boys, start saying that they are girls. Of course, the opposite can also happen. In most cases, this resolves itself by the time they become adults, as their gender identity aligns with their assigned sex at birth.
“The second category is when individuals suddenly claim to have gender dysphoria during adolescence. The majority of such cases involve females, particularly girls born into middle-class or higher Caucasian families with liberal parents, especially in Western countries. The third category is a phenomenon observed in adult males, where they sexually fantasize about themselves as women. This is known as autogynephilia. Some men with this type of attraction are married and have children.”
Shimada noted that in the US, which is far ahead of Japan in gender-related matters, strict laws are being created one after another to restrict excessive measures, adding:
”Individuals with autogynephilia are known to be often attracted to females. We have not been informed about the identity of the person from METI, so it is difficult to say anything in particular. However, it is absurd for the Supreme Court to hand down a decision leading the entire nation in a certain direction, ignoring the societal complexities involved.”
Ms. Katayama made an important point:
“No matter who this person with METI may be, this individual is suspected of at least violating the National Civil Service Act.”
The person in question is suspected of posting numerous sexually explicit comments during daytime hours from a Twitter account that closely resembled that of a government agency. We know neither the face nor the true identity of this person. Is it enough to just view “her” as a pitiable transgender woman? The image portrayed and the tweets attributed to “her” do not align. The justices of the Supreme Court have been unable to explain this series of contradictions. This ruling is an historic stain on our country’s judiciary.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 1,059 in the August 3, 2023 issue of The Weekly Shincho)