Determined to Live as a Man

Masaki Masataka

translated by Katsuhiko Suganuma

  1. I am a female-to-male transgender who has lived as a man ever since I changed my gender to male after undergoing hormone treatment which transformed my appearance into that of male. I do not experience any strong dysphoria regarding my body as it is at the moment. Hence, although I have already undergone breast-removal surgery, I am not opting to undergo sex reassignment surgery.
  2. I believe that it was a positive step that the special law concerning Gender Identity Disorder (GID) was enacted in Japan and now people with GID are officially allowed to change their sex in their family registry.[1] However, due to certain conditions specified by the law, those who, including myself, do not wish to have a full sex-change operation, or who cannot have the operation for various reasons, are still unable to change their gender legally. I also believe that from a humanitarian and ethical standpoint, the law should not be allowed to decree that a healthily functioning body should be rendered infertile or to coerce an individual into undergoing sex-reassignment surgery in order to change their gender legally and as a consequence I am taking action to remove these conditions. On top of these considerations, I would like you to know that the special law concerning GID has other numerous problems.
  3. I am an organizer of a non-profit organization called Sei wa Jinken Nettowāku ESTO [ESTO Network of Sexuality as Human Rights] in Akita Prefecture in northern Japan which deals with numerous issues concerning sexuality and human rights. This organization was established in 1998 with the aim of providing support for people with diverse sexual orientations, sexual identifications, and biological sexes, such as transgenders, intersex people, lesbians, gays and bisexuals, in order to encourage self-help and mutual understanding. Currently we have about one-hundred members across the country.
  4. My sexual orientation is towards persons of the male sex and I have a male partner. I have already introduced him to my family and they have accepted him as my de facto husband. However, although I might call him a man, he is also a female-to-male transgender like myself. Therefore it is not possible for us to be de jure spouses since legally our partnership would be regarded as a same-sex marriage.

    My childhood: fighting with my brother
  5. I have two brothers. One is just one year younger than me, and another four years younger. According to my family registry, I am the oldest daughter, but I always consciously thought I was the oldest son in my family. However, since my brother who is one year younger also identified himself as the oldest son, we argued and fought over trifling things almost everyday. For me those fights were not the kind between a big sister and a small brother, but between a big brother and small one. Until he was in the forth grade in elementary school, I was physically able to do battle with him. But after he became much stronger than me, I could no longer beat him in a fair manner. Hence, refusing to give up, I sometimes used a broom to fight with him. Compared with myself, a person who has been mentally tough since childhood, my brother was so gentle and weak that he easily got sick. Considering this, one time my father said to me that 'your brother was born with stuff that you forgot to be born with'. And some adults around me often tried to tease me by saying 'You were mistakenly born as a girl'. But those words were something that secretly increased my self esteem.
  6. Since kindergarten age, I always felt uncomfortable being among girls, and thought that I was in the wrong place. Although I had several girlfriends whom I played with, gradually I started to spend most of my free time by myself. Soon after I began spending time alone, I was picked on by one boy in my class. I recall it was when I was in the sixth grade in the elementary school. One time I couldn't take it anymore, so I hit him back. Enraged by my revolt, the boy attacked me further, and the bullying became worse after that. The girls in my class tried to rescue me and took me to the side of the room by pulling my arm. Protecting me with their bodies, the girls said to the boy 'You stop it!' I felt disgusted with myself, surrounded by those girls. My mind said to me 'Why do I need to be protected?' I still vividly remember how ashamed I felt at the moment when the girls intervened in the fight, and I was protected by others. After this incident, I became more dissociated from those girls and spent much more time alone. Between classes, I always went to the library to read many books – whatever was there – books on insects and animals, girls' stories like Anne of Green Gables, detective novels about Sherlock Holmes and books on religion and fables etc. I read about three books a day.
  7. I came into the world with a condition known as aproctia, meaning that my anus was imperforated. Therefore when I was a baby, I had to have abdominal surgery. Probably due to the aftereffects of the surgery, my body was weak, and as a consequence, I wasn't good at sports. When I was in middle school, my body started to develop all those secondary sex characteristics, such as menstruation and bigger breasts. However, at the time, I did not feel any strong discomfort with those changes. I did not experience any strong dysphoria toward my female body, that is to say I did not think I was a transsexual.
  8. When I went outside, most of the time I wore plain but girly clothes. I also liked dressier clothes to an extent. But it was more like I was wearing them in the sense that I was a 'man in women's clothes'. By this time, I started to really wonder if I was a man or not; every time I wore dresses, I thought I was 'doing drag'. The most exciting thing for me back then was one rock band called X-JAPAN. When I looked at the way the lead singer Yoshiki dressed, I was relieved to find that it was OK for men to wear makeup, do their nails, and wear skirts if they like. Since then, I began to feel more comfortable than before about wearing feminine clothes. On the other hand, at that time my parents were probably thinking that their daughter had finally attained puberty and was becoming more like a woman.

    Stress in my 20s from Pre-Menstrual Disorder Syndrome
  9. Right after I graduated from high-school, I started to work. After changing my job a few times, I was hired by one company as a female staff member and forced to wear their female uniform. Back then, it did not even occur to me that I could refuse to wear it. I realized that I could choose not to wear female clothes only after I learned about GID. Before that, there was no such role model of GID around me, so I never thought of refusing to wear the uniform.
  10. When I was about twenty-two or three, my menstruation stopped for about a year due to psychological stress. Because of this I started to get pre-menstrual disorder syndrome (PMS), and each period of my ovulation I suffered from qualm, nausea, terrible headaches and tiredness. I also developed mastopathy at the same time and experienced unendurable pain in my breasts. Due to these complications, I had to rest for at least a few days during my period. It used to be the case that the harsh pain eased a bit after I had a period, but gradually it became a constant problem. So I went to see a gynecologist and tried some pills and herbal medicines that would control the balance of female hormones in my body, but none of these were effective. On top of that, some side effects of those treatments made matters worse. Then my doctor said to me, 'We can try male hormones to cure your problem'. However, I knew that if I injected male hormones into my body, my body would begin to look like that of a man. I couldn't make up my mind to do it for a while because I was not sure if I could live as a man.
  11. While I was still hesitating about whether to undergo male hormone therapy, I found out that the Saitama Medical College had approved and created the guidelines for the treatment of GID patients in 1996. I got to know about GID at this time. After this, I gathered as much information about the condition as possible through browsing the Internet, and even went to Tokyo to attend some group meetings for people with GID. While I was getting to know more about GID, I understood that I myself was a person with GID.
  12. One day I went to listen to a public speech by Dr Harashina Takao from the Saitama Medical College. At that time, he kindly recommended that I come to see him in the hospital, and he introduced me to a certain mental clinic (which I shall call 'A' for purposes of counseling).
  13. The next month I visited psychiatrists at the Akita University Hospital and I asked them to commence the hormone therapy for me because my PMS had continued to get worse to the extent that I couldn't even pursue my daily activities. Then they referred me to one gynecologist. After the gynecologist approved my request for the hormone therapy, I called Dr Harashina and the mental clinic 'A' to ask their approval to administer male hormones as a treatment for my gynecological condition. The permission was granted and I started to inject male hormones into my body. For the next year and a half, I commuted to the Kanto area (near Tokyo) to continue the treatment, and also underwent counseling at the Akita University Hospital. I was 32 in 1999 when I was officially diagnosed as GID by the two psychiatrists at the hospital.
  14. After I started to take male hormones, my body condition was much improved. Since my ovulation stopped, I no longer had to suffer from the pain from PMS and take time off work. In my case, if the previous female hormone treatment had been effective for my body condition, I am not sure if I would ever have tried male hormone therapy. It was as if I had to start it before thinking too deeply, otherwise I would have been afraid that I would be fired from my job. Yet, I also think that sooner or later I would have started taking the therapy after all.
  15. As a result of the therapy, I was happy that my body became more muscular. Before the treatment my body was prone to fat. I came to the conclusion that I felt more comfortable with myself with a masculine physique. I had my breasts removed last summer. Now I can enjoy my life more easily as a man. However I do not think that I would like to undergo phalloplasty surgery. If I had to have something hanging between my legs, it's would be really annoying. I don't think it's necessary for me, because to be able to pee on the street wouldn't make my life any more convenient anyway.

    Coming out to my parents
  16. There was an occasion before I started my hormone therapy when my boss from work blatantly called me by my first name as it is listed on the family registry (i.e. my female name). He was drunk at a picnic under the cherry blossoms. Usually at work he called me by my last name, but at that time he called me by my first. I felt upset and shocked because I had hated my name since I was a child. So when he referred to me in that way, I almost thought 'I want to kill this asshole'. Of course he did not call me by my name with intent since he had no idea about the complicated details of my identity. However, after the incident I made up my mind that 'I will definitely change my name, and never let anyone call me that way again'.
  17. Since I decided to start the hormone therapy, I quit putting makeup on and cut my hair really short. I also requested that my company let me wear pants instead of the female uniform. Furthermore, I asked them to provide me with their work clothes for male employees. I had to explain all of these things to my company one by one, including that I was undergoing treatment for GID at the Saitama Medical College, the reason why I wanted to change my female uniform to the male one, why I wanted to change my name, and my desire to be treated as a male employee, etc. I talked to them about one thing at a time over a half-year period, and was successful in convincing them. Due to my specialist occupation as a CAD operator at a surveyor's company, my company agreed to my requests and I could continue to work there in earnest.
  18. As I have described here, I was able to work as a male employee at my company, but I had not come out to my parents yet. Since I was a teenager, my father had his favorite phrase saying 'When you get married, you canů' On the other hand, I was already aware that I was not a 'woman', hence I always felt resistance to such comments of his. Gradually I started not speaking to my father at all. As for my mother, I was always quarreling with her because of my suffering from not being able to tell her about my dysphoria concerning my gender identity. At age 25, I moved out from my parents' house and started to live alone. Living apart from my parents I could face my inner struggles honestly. Then I returned home when I was 29, and since then my relationship with my parents has much improved.
  19. Before I started to live apart from my parents for the second time at the age 31, I had already started my treatments for GID. But I did not inform them about that at the time. I told them after the hormone therapy had had some effect on my body and passed the point of no return. I explained to them for the first time about my PMS and GID. I told them that I could only undergo male hormone therapy as a treatment for my PMS, and I could not live as a woman, so I decided to change my gender. My father seemed to approve of my decision, understanding the fact that I had struggled with this for a long time. Probably he showed his understanding thinking that he could not ask more than that 'I can be healthy, and live on' considering the fact that I was a physically very vulnerable kid due to the major operation that I had right after I was born. On the other hand, my mother could not accept my confession even though she said she understood my words. However, when ESTO organized a public lecture in Sendai, she did bother to come all the way and listen to it. I am thankful for her efforts to understand me more.


    [1] For a detailed account of this law, see this edition of Intersections for Taniguchi Hiroyuki's essay 'The Legal Situation Facing Sexual Minorities in Japan.'


This paper was originally published in Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, with the assistance of Murdoch University.

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