A Japanese court on Wednesday recognized a transgender man's petition to legally change his gender without having first undergone sterilization, after the country's top court ruled the requirement unconstitutional in October.

The plaintiff, 50-year-old Tacaquito Usui, welcomed the ruling from the Okayama Family Court's Tsuyama Branch as "profoundly moving." It is likely to be followed by more from other family courts deliberating over similar circumstances.

Tacaquito Usui speaks at a press conference in Okayama after the Okayama Family Court's Tsuyama Branch recognized his petition to have his gender changed on his family register, on Feb. 7, 2024. (Kyodo)

The petition lodged in December was Usui's second, after his first was rejected in 2016 because he had not undergone sterilization.

The latest decision comes after the Supreme Court ruled that a provision effectively requiring the removal of a person's reproductive capacity to officially change their gender is unconstitutional.

But while the top court did issue a ruling on sterilization surgery, it also requested that a high court re-evaluate the requirement that a person's genitals must conform in appearance with those of the gender they identify with.

The Okayama court judged that the man fulfilled the appearance criterion, the same conclusion it reached in his first petition, due to factors including his having undergone hormone therapy.

Usui runs a farm in the village of Shinjo, where he lives with his 46-year-old partner and her son, aged 13. With Usui's gender now legally recognized, the pair will be able to fulfill their long-held wish to marry.

"I want to thank my family. I feel a new life is beginning," Usui said in a press conference after the decision.

Usui was assigned as female at birth and has said that he felt uncomfortable being treated as such from a young age. After becoming an adult, he was diagnosed with gender identity disorder.

Usui told reporters the latest outcome "left me feeling society has changed" and that he is "moved by the progress that has been made."

The ruling was held behind closed doors, with Usui's lawyer saying during the press conference that the judgment was the first of its kind they were aware of, though they later corrected their remarks.

Before the top court decision, Japan's law on gender dysphoria stipulated six conditions to register as a different sex.

Under the terms, an individual must be at least 18 years old, unmarried, have no underage children, no longer be able to reproduce, have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from at least two physicians, and must have genitals that resemble those of the gender to which the person identifies.

In Japan, 11,919 people successfully switched genders on the family registry between 2004 and 2022, according to the Supreme Court.

In 2014, the World Health Organization called for the elimination of forced and involuntary sterilization, noting that in some countries, transgender people are made to undergo sterilization to obtain documents that reflect their gender identity.

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