Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 31, December 2012

An Introduction to X-Jendā:
Examining a New Gender Identity in Japan

S.P.F. Dale

  1. Genders, or ways of being, that are neither explicitly female nor male have existed historically in various cultures and societies. From the hijras in India,[1] to the Native-American two-spirit,[2] to the Thai kathoey—configurations of gender that do not fit into the male/female binary have been popular subjects of research in western academia.[3] More recently, work has been done looking at the impact of modernisation, globalisation, as well as modernity on traditional constructs of non-male/female gender,[4] as well as the creation of new genders, gender identities, and gendered/non-gendered ways of being.[5] The most prolific of these perhaps (at least within the academic sphere) is research that has been done by self-identified transgendered individuals examining issues of transgender.[6] However, existing research in English that looks at the construction of new genders and trans- or non-male/female gendered ways of being do so primarily from an American context, and research that looks at non-Anglophone cultures tends to focus on traditional or folkloric genders, for example those outlined above. Gender itself is a malleable concept, and what it means to be female, male, neither, or both, changes and evolves within one's culture, and with the times. In this paper, I look at the concept of x-jendā—a recent term, or one may say identity/way of being, that has developed within the past decade or so in Japan, and refers to a gender that is neither male nor female, or, depending on the definition, both.
  2. This paper attempts to trace the historiography of the development of x-jendā through looking at three 'contact zones': the queer communities of Kansai, printed material and the media, and the Internet.[7] Through laying out how x-jendā has emerged in these various forums, this paper seeks to introduce a non-Japanese readership to x-jendā, and is also intended as a backdrop for my current research, which further explores the concept of x-jendā as identity, and makes use of interviews conducted with individuals who identify as x-jendā. I seek to lay out the background for further research on the topic, as well as provide an introduction to the term and how it has been utilised. Owing to the lack of research as well as publications surrounding the term x-jendā at present, it should be noted that this paper presents a tertiary historiography at best, and should by no means be taken as authoritative. The paper ends with some speculative thoughts about the current development of x-jendā, and how further research on the topic can be pursued.

    Introducing a term: X-jendā / X-Gender?
  3. Jendā is the Japanese loan word for 'gender,'[8] and its meanings in an academic as well as political context can be understood as paralleling that of gender as it is commonly understood in English; that is to say, as referring to socially constructed 'sex' and the implicit order that it implicates in society (gender roles, work division, etc). However, it should be noted that outside of these contexts (political, academic) it is not really used—'jendā' is not a term that one finds on forms requiring personal information, and in such cases seibetsu (often interpreted as referring to biological/physiological sex, although there does not exist a neat distinction between seibetsu, sex, and gender) is used. X-jendā (read ekkusu jendā), through the inclusion of the term jendā, would appear to be a loan word, and can be taken to signify that one's gender is neither female nor male, but 'x.' However, as may be noted, although an ostensible loan word the term 'x-gender' is not used (or rather, has not up until present been used) in cultural contexts outside of Japan. As such, it may be insinuated that x-jendā is an original Japanese term, and in order to emphasise this x-jendā will be utilised throughout this paper, rather than rendering it into the English 'x-gender.' This is meant to highlight the fact that the term cannot be easily translated, and that jendā may have different connotations in a Japanese context although ostensibly having the same meaning as 'gender'.
  4. Jennifer Robertson writes that with regards to androgyny in Japan, the two most-frequently encountered terms are ryōsei and chūsei.[9] These terms also occur frequently in the discourse pertaining to neither explicitly male/female ways-of-being, as well as the x-jendā discourse. In addition to these two, another frequently encountered term is musei. All three terms contain the word sei, which in this context can be understood as having something to do with either sex (biological/physiological), or gender, or even both simultaneously—there does not exist a prerequisite distinction between sex and gender when the term sei is employed. Chū means 'middle,' and as such a literal translation would be middle-sex/gender. Ryō means 'both,' and so 'both-sex/gender,' and musei would be 'no-sex/gender.' According to Robertson, ryōsei tends to refer to possessing both male and female genitalia, or someone possessing both masculine and feminine characteristics.[10] Chūsei tends to be translated as 'androgynous,' and this is certainly the definition that Robertson has stuck with, writing that it has been used to mean 'neutral' or 'in between,' as such neither male nor female.[11] However, owing to observations of the current usage of these terms by Internet users and communities, it would seem that there is some incongruence. Ryōsei can be taken to mean that one has periods where one feels male, and others where one feels female, or that one feels that one has both male and female attributes. Chūsei, rather than indicating 'neutrality,' refers not only to an androgynous appearance but also to feeling not quite female/male, but somewhere in-between. Musei seems to fit more with the conception of neutrality, and is a complete rejection of being gendered. However, it should be noted that although there is a general understanding of these terms, their usage depends on the individual. As these terms do not have direct English counter-parts, in this paper I will stick to using the Japanese terms, once again to emphasise that they are not easily translatable into English, and also in an attempt to retain their meanings from the Japanese linguistic context.

    Context: between and beyond genders, transgender, gender-identity disorder
  5. X-jendā is often considered a sub-group of transgender, and this is evident in how x-jendā individuals frame their identity, using terms such as FtX, MtX, or XtX,[12] following the model of sex assigned at birth to sex 'transitioned' used by transgendered individuals (i.e. male to female (MtF), female to male (FtM)). It should be noted that in Japan, transgender as a term is hardly used in popular discourse, and what one encounters instead are terms such as seidōitsuseishōgai (a translation of Gender Identity Disorder (GID)), nyū-hāfu,[13] okama, and onabe.[14] In recent years, GID has by far become the most dominant of these discourses, and the most well-known. The first legally recognised sex re-assignment surgery took place in 1998, and in 2001 the popular television drama, Sannen B-gumi Kinpachi-sensei, that featured a transgender teenager (FtM) helped spread the knowledge of the term and bring it into public awareness. Since then, it has firmly lodged itself into the public consciousness, to the extent that most non-explicitly female/male ways of being have been subsumed by it.
  6. Transgender as a loan word (toransujendā) only became known in Japan following the wave of the queer movement/queer studies movement that came to Japan in 1996.[15] Along with the concept of 'queer' (which has its roots in deconstructionalism and postmodernism) came the concept of transgender, which brought a post-structural aspect to the formulation and analysis of such identities. This is not to say that transgender (i.e. 'shifting away' from one's assigned gender at birth) identities had not existed in the past, but only that they were not called as such. Eventually the use of the term 'queer' (kuia in katakana) subsided, and is now mostly used in academic/literary circles, and not very well-known either. In the Anglophone context, the word 'queer' can be seen as an umbrella term for all non-heteronormative sexual and gender identities, but increasingly the term also seems to be used to refer to fluidity in one's sexual orientation or gender identity. As such, a person who is 'queer' has no specific sexual orientation (to be distinguished from bisexuals as 'bi' seems to implicate two (i.e. female and male) sexes—the model of sex espoused here is non-polarised, non-binary), and a gender queer identity is similar to that of x-jendā, that is to say, neither distinctly male/female. However, perhaps owing to the fact that the concept of 'queer' has not really caught up in Japan at a popular level, these formulations of sexuality and gender identity have not really done so either.
  7. The prevalence of the GID discourse starting from the late 1990s has had ramifications for not only the framing of transgender identities, but that of sexuality as well. The significance of GID is that whilst allowing individuals to 'change' sex, it simultaneously enforces a strictly male/female gender dichotomy, and in order to be 'permitted' to change sex officially one must conform to the societal expectations of the desired sex physically (by undergoing surgery), 'mentally' (by 'feeling' like a 'man'/'woman'), and most importantly, visibly (to be judged 'male'/'female' by the doctor). One may see this as an exercise of what Michel Foucault has called 'bio-power,' whereby a population is regulated through the monitoring of bodies through discipline and reproduction.[16] GID functions as a subservient to bio-power in that it ensures the adherence to a female/male binary system (an image necessary for controlling reproduction) and, through medicalising the crossing of gender, maintains discipline and power relations through the act of confession needed in obtaining a diagnosis (individual relinquishing gender to 'specialist').
  8. Contemporary Japanese society can be characterised by the 'heterosexual matrix' that Judith Butler has prescribed,[17] and ways of being and sexual relations that fail to obey the imperatives of this system are seen as abnormal and in need of 'rectification.' For example, in accordance with the pro-natalist and eugenic thinking prior to the Second World War, castration or the removal of one's sexual organs was made illegal, and although the name of the law has changed since then the law itself continues to exist today.[18] As such the removal or reconstruction of sexual organs was only permitted once such a desire was defined as an illness, by proxy making surgery an imperative.
  9. Judith Halberstam has written that 'the invention of transsexuality as a medical category has partly drained gender variance out of the category of homosexuality and located gender variance very specifically within the category of transsexuality.'[19] Given the predominance of the GID discourse in Japan and taking into consideration the discussion that will be presented henceforth, it would seem that x-jendā has been framed by many individuals as an aspect of GID or transgender, and scarcely associated with homosexuality or, for example, 'butchness.' Given the recent construction of the term one may postulate that prior to GID gaining ground, similar ways of being may have been framed differently. GID has also become more socially recognised and accepted than homosexuality, and this can be understood to have affected personal formulations of sexuality and identity pertaining to gender.

    Community contact: x-jendā in Kansai
  10. It can be assumed that the term x-jendā originated in the queer communities of Kansai, specifically Osaka and Kyoto. Although it is impossible to pinpoint its exact origins, the term started appearing in independently produced documentary productions by and featuring transgender individuals, and also appeared in independent publications by local queer organisations starting from the late 1990s.
  11. G-Front Kansai is an organisation that was established in 1994,[20] with the aim of 'positively highlighting (apīru) the existence of gays (gei) in society, to eliminate discrimination and prejudice, and to actively promote a network and the sharing of information for gays who may be isolated.'[21] 'Gay' in this context refers primarily to male homosexuals, although it should be noted that the organisation has welcomed participation irrespective of age, sex (seibetsu), and sexuality.[22] The organisation and participation in the group has needless to say changed over the
    years, but since 1997 the group has held gatherings for transgender individuals. It should be noted that G-Front, like similar organisations in Kansai and elsewhere (for example QWRC in Osaka, LOUD in Tokyo) makes use of a rented apartment for its gatherings, and as such access outside of scheduled events is not possible. G-Front publishes a monthly newsletter, as well as an annual journal called Poco a poco. Poco a poco has a different theme every month, and consists mostly of interviews and dialogues with and between individuals and members of the community. In 2000 (volume 15), the theme was Seibetsu to iu mono, koto (That which is known as sex/gender), and focused on issues of transgender and gender variance. The issue consists of interviews, personal accounts, and dialogues between and of individuals who cross-dress, are transgendered, and in various ways challenge understandings of gender and sex. Although it may be claimed that some of the accounts resemble x-jendā individuals, none of the individuals in the issue used the term in identifying themselves (identity was not always directly revealed either). However, x-jendā is included in the glossary of useful terms at the back of the issue.

    Figure 1. Cover of Poco a poco, vol. 15, 2000.


      As the narrow definition of MtF/FtM strongly indicates a desire to move towards the opposite sex,[23] this term is used by individuals who do not fit under the existing categories of male (dansei)/female (josei), or who are unsure of their sex/gender.[24]

  12. One of the individuals who appears in the issue, Morita Shinichi,[25] was one of the founding members of G-Front, and can also be thought of as having had an important role in the development of x-jendā. In this issue of Poco a poco, Morita is described as a 'seidōitsuseishōgai gei' (gay with GID), whose political goal is for society to be ultimately 'jenda-furi' (literally 'free of gender,' but see footnotes).[26] Morita has appeared in the texts Toransujendā feminizumu and Seidōitsuseishōgai—seitenkan no ashita (which will be gone through below), and also speaks about their[27] personal experience in the documentary ♀?♂?※? a twenty-minute production consisting of three sections each featuring a different individual giving an account of their relation with sex/gender/sexuality.[28] Featured are an intersexed individual, a transsexual FtM individual, and a MTFTX who is a full-time 'male cross-dresser'.[29] The documentary was produced in cooperation with G-Front and PESFIS,[30] and produced by Tanaka Ray (author of Toransujendā feminizumu). The MTFTX in question is Morita,[31] and Morita goes into more detail here about their relationship with gender and sexuality. According to Morita, their gender (jendā) or seijinin[32] is close to being that of a woman (josei), and from the standpoint of gender they could be seen as a transgendered MtF. However, most MtFs desire to be taken as a woman in their sexual relationships—be it with a heterosexual man or with a lesbian woman. Morita professes to never have had such a desire, and is attracted by gay (gei) men, and says that their erotic fantasy is similar to that of a gay man (gei danshi rashī). As such, Morita describes their appearance as being designed to attract gay men, and to allow them to engage in the sexual relationships that they desire. Morita describes the situation as there being a split between their gender identity (seijinin) and sexual desire (sei yokubō), and that the both are incompatible, and as such for the time being they have chosen to privilege their sexual desire over their gender identity, dressing as a (specific kind of) man to attract men, rather than becoming more 'womanly' as they desire to do. Morita also speaks about the ideal of jendā-furi, describing it as getting rid of unnecessary gender discrimination in society, for example by getting rid of the column for sex/gender on public documents. Morita emphasises that they are not rejecting sex/gender (seibetsu), but rather advocates eliminating prejudice and discrimination based on sex/gender, for example the fact that same-sex marriage is not allowed, amongst other things.

    Media and print: growing awareness, emerging interpretations
  13. X-jendā has appeared in several non-fiction texts, the first appearance possibly being in 2000,[33] in Seidouitsuseishougai — seitenkan no ashita by Yoshinaga Michiko.[34] The book is presumably written for a non-transgendered audience (written by a non-transgendered person), and presents a study of sex/gender, as well as the medical and societal aspects of transgender existences. One should note that the work is, as the title might suggest, framed squarely within the GID discourse, and looks at transgender through these lenses. X-jendā is not actually discussed, but only mentioned in a quote by Morita (from G-Front), who is introduced as an individual who describes self as x-jendā. Morita describes the situation as, 'there exists no word for transsexual or transgendered individuals who do not clearly aim to be distinctly male or female. As such, I just use the term "x-jendā" to talk about my way of being.' Officially, Morita is 'male,' and according to Yoshinaga, has all the appearance and mannerisms of 'a man'. However, Morita hesitates in categorising self as male, yet alone female, and hence refers to self as 'x-jendā.'[35] It should be noted that Yoshinaga conducted fieldwork in Kansai, and also contributed a piece about her experience doing research about transgender to the issue of Poco a poco mentioned above.
  14. Tanaka Ray, the producer of '♀?♂?※? wrote a series of essays about transgender issues, and published them in 2006 as Toransujenda feminizum (Transgender Feminism).[36] The text is based upon their own personal experiences, and Tanaka introduces self in the text as a 'polygamous, pansexual, FTM-type transgendered person,'[37] and although not mentioned in the book considers self as fitting loosely into the category of x-jendā. In the preface, Tanaka writes about the experience of producing ♀?♂?※? and Morita (once again, the same Morita as above, here referred to as KENN,[38]) stating that they were a big inspiration.[39] Morita is described as a 'MTFTX gay,'[40] who actually desired to transition (toransu shitai) to female (josei), but owing to their sexual preference for gay men was a full-time male cross-dresser.[41] Tanaka's text is a radical argument against the gender binary in place in society, and also advocates against the koseki,[42] as it enforces a certain model of society.[43] X-jendā, not explicitly mentioned in the text, appears in the glossary of terms at the end of the book, and is described as such:

      FTX female to X efu tīekkusu A transgender individual who is described as biologically female (F), but has chosen to live as a sex which is neither (dochira demo nai), (X).[44]

      MTX male to X emu tī ekkusu A transgender individual who is described as biologically male (M), but has chosen to live as a sex which is neither (dochira demo nai), (X).[45]

  15. X-jendā is also briefly mentioned in Nakamura Mia's Kuia Sekusorojī (Queer Sexology), a text that promotes a queer-ed understanding of sexuality and gender. In the text, x-jendā is mentioned in a segment that discusses transgender and GID, and how the two can be considered to differ, as well as the diversity (sexual and otherwise) that exists between transgender individuals. X-jendā is presented as such:

      There are individuals such as MTX and FTX, who do not shift from male or female to the opposite sex, but who by using 'X' avoid being easily classifiable by others.[46]

  16. In 2007, the group ROS (Rockdom of Sexuality, intended to signify the 'fluidity of sex'[47]) published the text Toransu ga wakarimasen!! (I don't understand trans!!), which was a collection of personal accounts written by members of various genders, writing frankly and candidly about, amongst other things, their bodies and sexualities. The book was originally published as a zine and distributed at various transgender events.[48] X-jendā is introduced in the opening chapter:

      People who don't clearly understand which gender they are, or who aren't believers in the system of two-sex/genders (seibetsu) are 'trans' or FtX (something other than female/woman (onna igai no nanimonoka), or MtX (something other than male/man).[49]

  17. Featured in the collection are essays written by at least three individuals who identify as FtX (gender-identity was in some cases not stated), one of whom admits to having appeared in the Poco a poco edition discussed above.[50] It should be noted that gender fluidity and variance is celebrated by the members of the group, and that the publication promotes this variety rather than a set idea of what a 'transgendered person' should be.
  18. Tsuruta Sachie's Seidōitsuseishōgai no esunogurafue (An ethnography of GID), a study consisting of fieldwork and research, also brings up x-jendā.[51] The fieldwork consisted of interviews held with both MtF and FtM individuals over a span of years, and in 2007 Tsuruta spoke with three individuals undergoing GID treatment who identified as FtX. The description of these individuals was as such: 'Not female (onna) but not male (otoko) either, if they were seeking to become anything it was "X" —the newly established category of FtX—that these three individuals associated themselves with.' Tsuruta does not go into any deep analysis, but does postulate as to how x-jendā gained credence. According to Tsuruta, in 2005 the concept known as chūsei bōisshu (boyish chūsei) appeared, and through magazines gatherings were organised for FtM and FtX individuals. These gatherings have apparently drawn over a hundred people, and it seems as though the number of people who choose to refer to themselves as FtX is on the rise. Furthermore, in 2006 on an edition of the television programme Hāto o tsunagou (Connecting Hearts) focusing on GID, an FtX individual was included.[52] Tsuruta postulates that the influence of Hāto o tsunagou on spreading knowledge of not only FtX but that of GID is more than considerable.[53] Tsuruta is currently conducting further fieldwork with FtX individuals, and it should also be noted that she only mentions the case of FtX here, and the possible existence of MtX is not even brought up.
  19. Other than Hāto o tsunagou, x-jendā has not explicitly appeared in televised media. However, in 2008 the popular award-winning television drama, Rasuto Furenzu (Last Friends) featured a character who was questioning their gender. The character (Ruka) was female-bodied, and 'boyish' looking, and also happened to be in love with their (female) best friend. As Yuen Shu Min points out,[54] the actual 'gender identity' of Ruka is not explicitly revealed in the series, although there is a scene where Ruka goes to a gender clinic and is diagnosed as having GID. Yuen points out that Ruka can be read as being FtM, lesbian, or even neither, that is to say, as a gender-variant in a female body, depending on the position of the viewer. From my own research, I have also encountered individuals who choose to read Ruka as x-jendā, and as having had an influence in how they frame themselves. It is significant to note that the earlier mentioned Sannen B-gumi Kinpachi-sensei and Rasuto Furenzu both feature individuals who were assigned the female sex at birth. Gender variant male-bodied or MtF characters have not yet been the subject of popular television dramas, although they are present in manga and anime. There are several popular celebrities who cross-dress or are transgendered (MtF) individuals, and there is also the popular term onē, literally meaning 'big sister' and also as a term of reference for a young woman, that is used to refer to such 'characters' and the specific camp way of speaking.[55] However, be it intentional or not, there is a notable association of drama with FtM, and variety/comedy with MtF. This also has potential significance for the influence that these media productions have had on the framing of gender identities and sexuality, differing depending on one's sex assigned at birth (male/female).
  20. X-jendā has also appeared in manga, notably in the works of Arai Shō, an intersexed person who considers self chūsei. Arai's manga (following the discovery of being intersexed at the age of thirty) focuses mainly on real-life experiences as an intersexed person, as well as transgender and 'sexually alternative' friends and their various adventures.

    Internet contact: the spreading of a term
  21. The sources explored above have focused mainly in Kansai—not only the community in which x-jendā as a concept was potentially formed, but also the texts which feature x-jendā in them. It can be considered that the Internet played a big role in spreading the use of x-jendā to other regions of Japan. One may note its current presence in personal blogs, as well as social networking services (SNS) and online message boards, each of which will be explored briefly in turn.
  22. There are a number of personal blogs maintained by x-jendā individuals, with individuals who identify as x-jendā writing about their personal life. Some of the blogs are specifically about their experiences being 'x' and what this entails, although many are regular blogs about mundane everyday life. These bloggers make their gender evident by stating it in the title of their blog, for example 'FtX no chakuchiten o sagase!!!'[56] (Let's find a place for FtX to land!!!) and 'FtX. Sei, musei. Seibetsu ga nai. To iu kankaku' (FtX. Sex, no-sex. The feeling of being without sex), or by stating it in their profile, which is often visible on the main page of their blog. One individual describes self as 'MtX(F) 27 year old, aiming towards chūsei', and another as 'FtX rather than FtM.' As evidenced, these individuals tend to make public their gender by openly stating it, somewhat as an identification—name, location, (x) gender. At the same time, in order to further clarify their identity they contrast it to other transgender identities—such as MtF in the case of the above-mentioned MtX individual, and the FtX individual describing self as being more accurately captured by 'FtX' than 'FtM.' On certain blog sites, communities have also formed gathering together x-jendā individuals. On the blogging site Ameba, for example, there are groups that cater to individuals who identify as x-jendā, as well as to those who describe themselves as chūsei, ryōsei, and musei.[57] Membership levels for these groups vary, but owing to lower usage numbers are considerably fewer than the groups on Mixi that will be explored below. On the blog ranking site Blogmura, there is also a ranking system that ranks the most-visited blogs by theme. Under the 'mental health' category, there is a sub-category for 'seidōitsuseishōgai FtM/FtX' (GID FtM/FtX) as well as one for MtF/MtX,[58] and each ranking lists close to 200 blogs each. There are two points that may be noted here: 1) transgender has been subsumed by GID; 2) x-jendā has a significant enough presence to be included in the category name.
  23. A bulletin board service that is notorious amongst most Internet users in Japan is 2-channel (read as nichanneru in Japanese) which is a hotbed for gossip-mongering, nationalist sentiment,[59] as well as more 'idle' banter. On 2-channel, one is permitted complete anonymity, and it is possible for one to participate in discussion without registering an account. The form of discussion is rather disjointed and sporadic, and messages are posted under one thread, each thread running to around a thousand posts at a time without any organisation. The frequency of discussion varies, but with regards to the thread on x-jendā, a couple of new posts a week can be considered regular activity. The first thread dedicated solely to x-jendā was entitled 'FtX', established in May 2008 and listed under the category for homosexuality, although discussion pertaining to x-jendā took place on other threads prior to this.[60] After the close of this thread, a new one was established, this time called '[FtX] X-jendā—chūsei / ryōsei / musei [MtX],'[61] as such explicitly including MtX individuals. At the start of this thread are explanations of what x-jendā is, as well as recommended links. Included amongst these were the medical status of x-jendā, as well as the 'symptoms' and 'desires' (akogare) of x-jendā individuals. Following this, a user also posted a 'gender scale' that users could use online to measure their 'genderedness,'[62] and other users posted their results following this. The topics of discussion on 2-channel tended to focus on issues of sexual preference, dislike towards ones own body but no desire to become the 'other' sex, marriage, as well as everyday problems, faced at work, school, or at home.
  24. Mixi is an SNS ostensibly similar to Facebook in that you have 'friends' and can write status updates and play games with them, but it differs in that it allows for a greater sense of anonymity; most users use a nickname to identify themselves, and do not tend to post their private photos online. On Mixi there are also user-created communities that one can join, and these run from large groups of over 100,000 members to smaller groups of around a hundred or fewer members. There were seven main groups (that is to say, that had members of over one hundred) that were created for non-female/male-identified individuals (excluding GID/transgender groups).[63] The first of these, called 'X Gender*,' was created in March 2005, and currently has over 400 members. The biggest two groups, 'The Sex That is Neither Male Nor Female' (otoko demo onna demo nai sei) and 'A World Without Sex/Gender' (seibetsu no nai sekai) were created in July 2005 and June 2006 respectively, and each has over 4500 members. Groups that cater to a variety of gender identities/ways of being also attract more members, as well as introduce these members to alternative identities. A number of my informants said that they found out about x-jendā through Mixi when searching for terms or joining communities pertaining to, for example, chūsei. Each community has a message board, and the discussions on these boards vary slightly between groups. For each community, there is usually a thread for self-introductions, and it is here that people make their gender identity evident, introducing themselves as x-jendā, FtX, MtX or otherwise, and sometimes going into more specific details as well. There is also usually a topic for consultation, where individuals can post their problems and concerns. If not, users also create topics pertaining to their concerns and to ask for advice. A recent topic on the board for one group was about going to the gender clinic (where transgendered individuals get diagnosed) for consultation. The individual who had created the topic was asking for advice on how to get diagnosed as 'x-jendā.' One of the responses came from an individual who had already been for consultation, and without self bringing up x-jendā the doctor had said, 'Cases of x-jendā have increased recently, you know. Wearing lipstick, putting on a skirt, but that doesn't mean that you want to become a woman right?' (the user in question identifies self as MtX). Some of the other questions run on the group message boards also pertained to questions of appearance (how to 'cultivate' a chūsei appearance, for example), the use of personal pronouns, advice pertaining to gender identity and relationships, as well as events where members could meet up. As such, most of the discussion pertained to everyday matters, as well as to means of procuring/ensuring an 'x-jendā' existence.
  25. Posting messages on Twitter has a limit of 140 characters, which in Japanese allows one to write a fair amount. One of my informants (MtX) said that Twitter is preferable to Mixi for meeting new people, as on Twitter one can freely follow individuals with the same interests (often made known in the user's profile) and directly start up a conversation, whereas on Mixi one joins a community and waits for people to contact them. As such, Twitter is more dynamic, and allows for more direct and instantaneous communication. There have recently been several debates that took place regarding x-jendā on Twitter, occurring between transgender individuals (particular MtF, who were unsure as to what x-jendā was supposed to signify) and x-jendā individuals themselves. One discussion, for example, questions what kind of medical recognition x-jendā individuals seek,[64] which led to a discussion between x-jendā individuals themselves regarding the issue.[65] Twitter has also been used to organise get-togethers for x-jendā individuals,[66] and has served as a social function not only online but offline as well.[67]

    The state of x-jendā now and from now on
  26. I end this paper by posing more questions than answers, and will seek to bring out several strains of thought that are evident from the development of x-jendā as discussed above, and which will pose points for further examination of the concept.
  27. Although in some cases striving to overcome the societal category and division of 'gender,' it can nevertheless be observed that 'gender' plays a significant role in x-jendā. As the title of the original x-jendā thread on 2-channel as well as Tsuruta's research indicate, FtX individuals were originally considered more prominent than MtX. A potential reason for this could be the greater variety of established non-explicitly female/male ways of being that are already available to individuals born 'male,' such as the nyū-hāfu and recently established 'otoko no ko,'[68] as well as the greater visibility of these personages. Male-to-female cross-dressers and 'questionably gay' celebrities such as Matsuko Deluxe and Tanoshingo appear regularly on television and are well-known and well-received, but there do not exist any non-feminine/'questionably female' female celebrities. This also goes in hand with Tanaka's criticism that most work done on transgender in Japan tends to focus on male-to-female transgendered individuals.[69] I would also like to suggest, however, that the television drama portrayal of GID and its favouring of FtM over MtF individuals may also have a role. Since starting my fieldwork, I have met a number of FtX individuals who admit to having had a period where they identified as 'FtM,' sparked by having watched either one of the television dramas outlined above. In the framing of self and 'gender identity,' it is necessary not only to consider media portrayals of variously gendered individuals, but also existing gender relations in society, and how these may impact upon individual experiences and personal narratives. Although not explored in this paper, language and linguistic frameworks also have a considerable role in shaping the possibilities of gendered existence. For example, the term 'seibetsu' and the ambiguity that it allows for in thinking sex/gender may perhaps also have a role in how individuals frame their gender identity, with certain x-jendā individuals aligning themselves with intersex individuals. If one speaks of seibetsu and not having one, does it refer to cognition, physiology, or both? The term allows for complex arrangements of gender, sex and sexuality which need to explored further
  28. As may be noted from the sources presented in this paper, transgender and GID tend to be interweaved in discourse pertaining to x-jendā, and there was not a necessary distinction between the two concepts, although some authors (such as Tanaka Ray) are strongly against the medicalisation of transgender identities. The issue of x-jendā and medicalisation is a tricky one, as there are individuals who seek to be diagnosed as having GID, as well as those who refute the very concept of GID. The cases presented here do not allow for much examination of this issue, but it is one that is of great importance for the framing of gender variant identities, as well as the reception and comprehension of gender variance in Japan.
  29. 'X-jendā' is a term that exists (at present) only in Japan, and its absence (or equivalent) is often a topic of discussion on the Internet. However the terms used to talk about it are noticeably 'global'—transgender, Gender Identity Disorder, male-to-, female-to-, and so on. The Wikipedia article on 'transgender' in Japanese includes x-jendā in its description, together with the terms such as 'gender-blender' (jendā burendā) and 'gender-queer' (jendā kuia), without providing any cultural context, hence perhaps leading one to believe that it is a 'global phenomenon.'[70] The present entry on transgender in Japanese also equivocates it to GID, whereas the transgender discourse in Anglophone/western countries has strongly distanced itself from such a position.[71]
  30. Evan Towle and Lynn Morgan write about how native/non-American non-female/male gender identities have been over-generalised by American/European anthropologists, sweeping them into the same category of 'transgender' whilst ignoring cultural traits.[72] They also critique the invocation of historical/traditional non-male/female gender identities from various cultures in outlining a common 'transgender history.' X-jendā presents an interesting twist to this argument, in that it stems from 'transgender,' yet does not have a place in the 'global' transgender discourse. At the same time, 'global' transgender debates and identities are invoked in attempting to justify or question the validity of x-jendā.
  31. As noted above, x-jendā can be claimed to have originated in Kansai, and the publications that mentioned x-jendā were all written by individuals who had spent a period of time in Kansai doing research. The term has since spread to other parts of Japan, and has since become a recognised 'identity' for individuals within the queer community—it is included as an option for 'gender identity' on surveys at queer movie festivals, as well as included in the introduction of various genders/sexualities in the pamphlet for queer events, for example this year's Sapporo Rainbow Parade. An interesting process of events can be noted from how the term originated in the queer community of Kansai, spread to the Internet, and in turn gave rise to the formation of a new community, one that would appear to be primarily organised online.
  32. Rather than looking at a static geographical 'contact zone,' this paper has explored the ways in which individuals located within or engaging in various contextual contact zones (community, print, media, internet) have interacted and played a role in the formulation as well as the spread of an identity/term. Although limited to a presentation of discussion pertaining to x-jendā, this has allowed for a useful examination of how a general understanding of a concept emerges, as well as how individuals can interpret and manipulate it for their own use.


    [1] Serena Nanda, Neither Man nor Woman: the Hijras of India, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub., 1990.

    [2] Will Roscoe, The Zuni Man-Woman, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991.

    [3] Richard Totman, The Third Sex: Kathoey: Thailand's Ladyboys, London: Souvenir, 2003.

    [4] Carolyn Epple, 'Coming to terms with Navajo "nádleehí": a critique of "berdache," "gay," "alternate gender," and "two-spirit",' in American Ethnologist, vol. 25, no. 2 (May, 1998):267–90; Peter A Jackson, 'An explosion of Thai identities: global queering and reimagining queer theory,' in Culture, Health and Sexuality, vol. 2, no. 4 (2000):405–24.

    [5] Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman, Gender Outlaws: the next Generation, Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2010; Joan Nestle, Clare Howell and Riki Anne Wilchins (eds), GenderQueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary, Los Angeles: Alyson, 2002.

    [6] Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us, New York: Routledge, 1994; Leslie Feinberg, Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul, Boston: Beacon, 1996; Susan Stryker, Transgender History, Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2008.

    [7] This paper seeks to primarily make use of material that is in print and hence 'verifiable,' but also (especially in the section on community in Kansai) makes use of fieldwork and interviews with individuals in Kansai and Kantō.

    [8] A loan word is one that is directly borrowed from another language, often known as katakana. These words are integrated into the Japanese language, and over time become localised and in some cases distanced from their 'original' meaning. Examples of common loan words from English are basu (bus) and rajio (radio).

    [9] Jennifer Ellen Robertson, Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998, p. 50.

    [10] Robertson, Takarazuka, p. 50.

    [11] Robertson, Takarazuka, p. 50.

    [12] XtX tends to be used by individuals who describe selves as never having identified as either male or female, or individuals, such as intersex individuals, who from the time of birth do not have bodies that are easily categorised as male or female, and are seeking a means of existence that is not specifically gendered.

    [13] Nyū-hāfu (new-half) refers to an individual assigned the male sex at birth, but who undergoes surgery for certain female body parts (example, breasts), without desiring to become a 'woman.' The term also has strong connotations of the entertainment world.

    [14] Wim Lunsing, 'The politics of okama and onabe,' in Genders, Transgenders, and Sexualities in Japan, ed. Mark J McLelland and Romit Dasgupta, London: Routledge, 2005, pp. 81– 95. Lunsing goes through some of the controversy surrounding the terms okama (originally used to refer to male-male sexual acts, but later taking on a connotation of male-to-female cross-dressing as well), and onabe (mostly used by female-to-male transvestites). The meanings of the words and what they signify have changed with the times, and both carry a tinge of the entertainment world.

    [15] Junko Mitsuhashi, Josō to nihonjin, Tokyo: Koudansha, 2008, p. 119.

    [16] Michel Foucault, The Will to Knowledge, trans. Robert Hurley, London: Penguin, 1998, pp. 138–45.

    [17] Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of 'Sex, New York: Routledge, 1993, p. 24.

    [18] Sabine Frühstück, Colonizing Sex: Sexology and Social Control in Modern Japan, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003, p. 177.

    [19] Judith Halberstam, Female Masculinity, Durham: Duke University Press, 1998, pp. 143–44.

    [20] G-Front Kansai: The Rainbow Shining over you, online:, last accessed 10 November 2011.

    [21] Poco a poco, vol. 15 (2000), Osaka: G-Front Kansai, p. 134.

    [22] Poco a poco, p. 134.

    [23] The 'narrow definition' referred to is that of transgender, which is understood to refer to individuals who identify as 'male' or 'female,' but do not desire to modify their bodies. This is contrasted to the 'wide definition' that includes individuals who have undergone surgery (transsexuals), individuals who cross dress (abbreviated as 'TV' for transvestites), the transgender individuals fitting under the narrow definition, as well as anyone who feels 'confusion' or a 'gap' with regards to gender. Poco a poco, p. 130.

    [24] Poco a poco, p. 128.

    [25] Morita passed away in 2008.

    [26] Jenda-furi has become a politically contentious term. Originally intended to refer to getting rid of prescribed gender roles in the work-place and discrimination, it came to be (mis)represented by politicians and the media as wanting to get rid of characteristics based on gender.

    [27] I use third person plural pronouns—'they,' 'their,' etc, to refer to individuals who identify as neither man nor woman. This is a linguistic issue that needs to be dealt with more seriously, but which I do not have the space to do at present.

    [28] ※ is intended to be a combination of the ♀ and ♂ symbols. Unfortunately the symbol is not included in this edition of Microsoft Word. The documentary is available as part of the Terere Select series on DVD. See カフェ放送てれれ for information, online, accessed 10 November 2011.

    [29] Described in the text as 'MTFTX24 jikan dansou.'

    [30] A self-help group for intersexed individuals. See Pesfis: Disorders of Sex Development, online:, accessed 14 November 2011.

    [31] Introduced as KENN but credited as Morita Shinichi.

    [32] Translatable as 'gender identity,' although taking note of the meaning of 'sei' discussed above the differing connotation should be noted.

    [33] It should be noted that texts dealing with non-female/gender identities and ways of being have existed before and after this, but not explicitly mentioning the concept of x-jendā. For example, Tomomi Sakura, Seidōitsuseishougai no sha kai gaku, Tokyo: Genjitsushoukan, 2006; Tetsuo Tsutamori, Otoko demo naku onna demo naku, Tokyo: Keisoshobo, 1993; Izumi Yonezawa (ed.), Toransujendarizumu sen gen (Transgender Manifesto), Tokyo: Sha kai hyou ka sha, 2003.

    [34] Michiko Yoshinaga, Seidōitsuseishougai - seitenkan no ashita. (Gender Identity Disorder - the Day After the Sex Change), Tokyo: Shueisha, 2000.

    [35] Yoshinaga, Seidōitsuseishougai, pp. 159–60.

    [36] Ray Tanaka, Transgender Feminism, Tokyo: Impact Publishing, 2006.

    [37] Tanaka, Transgender Feminism, author's biography at the back of the book.

    [38] KENN was Morita's pseudonym, and their real name was known even in cases of using the pseudonym.

    [39] Tanaka, Transgender Feminism, p. 2.

    [40] Tanaka, Transgender Feminism, p. 2.

    [41] Tanaka, Transgender Feminism, pp. 3–4.

    [42] This refers to the family register system in place in Japan. All Japanese citizens possess the koseki, except for the royal family. The koseki maintains that there is a head of the family, usually male, and hence can be said to be patriarchal. Gender is made evident on the koseki through family relation, for example 'eldest son,' and so on–male/female is not directly stated.

    [43] Tanaka, Transgender Feminism, p. 106.

    [44] Tanaka, Transgender Feminism, p. i.

    [45] Tanaka, Transgender Feminism, p. ii.

    [46] Mia Nakamura, Kuia sekusorojī (Queer Sexology) Tokyo: Impact, 2008, p. 101.

    [47] ROS (ed.), Toransu ga wakarimasen!! (I don't understand trans!!) Osaka: At Worx, 2007, p. 4.

    [48] 迫共, 'Mizukara uroko no sekushuaritei ROStte donna Toransu ga wakarimasen!!, pp. 4–13, p. 10. Also see ROS, online:, last accessed 15 November 2011.

    [49] Rupan 4 sei, 'Nyūmon! Toransu kouza,' Toransu ga wakarimasen!!, pp. 14–32, p. 25.

    [50] Rupan 4 sei, 'Nyūmon! Toransu kouza,' p. 32.

    [51] Sachie Tsuruta, Seidōitsuseishougai no esunogurafī (An Ethnography of Gender Identity Disorder), West-Tokyo: Harvest, 2009.

    [52] Hāto o tsunagou is a weekly documentary programme, which each week focuses on specific social issues (such as sexual harassment, living with disabilities, and so on). It has been noted for being one of the few television programmes to realistically portray LGBT individuals. It also hosts a web-site specifically about LGBT issues. See NHK Online, online:, accessed 19 December 2011.

    [53] Tsuruta, Seidōitsuseishougai no esunogurafue, p. 207.

    [54] Yuen Shu Min, 'Last friends, beyond friends – articulating non-normative gender and sexuality on mainstream Japanese television,' in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, vol. 12, no. 3 (2011):383–400.

    [55] See the following for a discussion of onē-kotoba: Claire Maree, 'Grrrl-queens: onē-kotoba and the negotiation of heterosexist gender norms and lesbo (homo) phobic stereotypes in Japanese,' in AsiaPacifiQueer: Rethinking Genders and Sexualities, ed. Fran Martin, Peter A. Jackson, Mark McLelland and Audrey Yue, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2008, pp. 67–84.

    [56] Please note that owing to privacy issues, I have chosen not to include links to these blogs. However, they can be found easily by performing a search for the blog title.

    [57] Some examples of such groups can be found at the following Ameba group pages:,,, accessed 14 November 2011.

    [58] These rankings can be found at the following links: FtM/FtX, accessed 14 November 2011; MtF/MtX, accessed 14 November 2011.

    [59] For example discrimination against Burakumin. See Nicole Gottlieb, 'Language, representation and power: Burakamin and the Internet,' in Japanese Cybercultures, ed. Nanette Gottlieb and Mark J. McLelland, London: Routledge, 2003, pp. 191–205.

    [60] Examples of some of these threads are available from the following website:, accessed 14 November 2011; Such discussion took place for example within discussions about being neither male nor female, without the term x-jendā explicitly coming up, and were listed under different categories, such as mental health.

    [61] This thread can be found here:, as well as and, accessed 15 April 2010.

    [62] The gender scale can be found at this page:, accessed 15 April 2011. The scale is based upon gender stereotypes, including questions about use of make-up, clothing, hobbies, getting lost and asking for directions, how emotional one is, amongst other things. The result one gets is a breakdown of 'manliness' (danseisei) and 'womanliness' (joseisei) based on a scale of 100, as well as one's ranking of feminine sexual appeal.

    [63] Mixi is a password-sensitive website—it is not possible to view Mixi groups without being signed up to Mixi, and as such the links are not included here. In order to sign up to Mixi, it is necessary to have a Japanese keitai (mobile phone) email address, and as such users are (ostensibly) limited to one account per person. One can find the groups listed here once signed up to Mixi by searching for them. The respective group pages were last accessed 14 November 2011.

    [64] The tweets pertaining to this discussion have been archived by a user and are available at the following website:, accessed 14 November 2011.

    [65] This follow-up discussion has also been archived:, accessed 14 November 2011.

    [66] An example of how individuals can use Twitter to organise gatherings can be found at:, accessed 14 November 2011.

    [67] It should be noted that I have also used Twitter (and Mixi) for my own research, as a tool to inform people of the x-jendā groups that I organise, as well as to find research participants.

    [68] Written as 男の娘 —read as otoko no ko, boy (literally boy child), but using the kanji for 'daughter' instead, hence 'boy daughter'. This term has only started to surface recently but is used to refer to male to female part-time cross-dressers, often assumed to be bisexual or heterosexual.

    [69] Tanaka, Transgender Feminism, p. 84.

    [70] For the Japanese Wikipedia page on transgender see:, accessed 10 November 2011.

    [71] Readily evident, for example, in the edited collection of Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle , The Transgender Studies Reader, New York: Routledge, 2006. Also see 'Transgender,' in Wikipedia (English) page for comparison:, accessed 14 April 2011.

    [72] Evan B. Towle and Lynn M. Morgan, 'Romancing the transgender native,' in The Transgender Studies Reader, ed. Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle, New York: Routledge, 2006, pp. 666–84.


Published with the support of Gender and Cultural Studies, School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.
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