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Sick but Legitimate? Gender Identity Disorder and a New Gender Identity Category in Japan

Sociology of Diagnosis

ISBN: 978-0-85724-575-5, eISBN: 978-0-85724-576-2

Publication date: 3 August 2011


Purpose – This study examines the consequences of sudden influx of medicalized discourse of gender in Japan by introduction of gender identity disorder (GID) in the late 1990s where transgender identities and the LGBT activism have had a different history and meanings from Western societies.

Methodology – I use discourse analysis of autobiographies of people with GID in Japan and the limited studies concerning the history of GID and transgender in Japan.

Findings – The introduction of GID to Japanese society contributed to increased social awareness of transsexual individuals. However, it also resulted in transsexual fundamentalism, which has excluded individuals who do not meet certain rigid medical and social identity criteria. This development reinforces the conventional binary gender norms instead of problematizing them. Furthermore, a legislation strictly based on the diagnosis has produced two groups: transsexual individuals with GID diagnosis who will be legally and socially recognized as legitimate, and those who are not GID and thus undeserving of such recognitions.

Social implications – Diagnosis cannot exist without criteria, therefore it is impossible for GID to function as an inclusive identity category. Therefore, we must seek a system to provide medical services that do not necessitate diagnosis. It is also crucial to nurture the social environment where people can freely choose gender identities and expressions that go beyond conventional binary gender system and to keep insisting on plurality and fluidity of gender so that people do not have to rush for a narrow window of recognition.



Itani, S. (2011), "Sick but Legitimate? Gender Identity Disorder and a New Gender Identity Category in Japan", McGann, P. and Hutson, D.J. (Ed.) Sociology of Diagnosis (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 12), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 281-306.



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