Makeup, voice lessons help lighten transsexuals' lives
Japan Policy & Politics, Dec 28, 1998
TOKYO, Dec. 23 Kyodo Several measures including techniques for better makeup, voice training, and noting change of sex in family registers are needed to improve the quality of life for transsexuals and transgenders, a gender clinic surgeon said Wednesday. Ako Takamatsu, a plastic surgeon at Saitama Medical College, stressed the need to alleviate the suffering of transsexuals and transgenders, citing a survey showing some 25% of such patients at her clinic have a history of self-inflicted injuries or attempted suicide.
If people suffering from gender identity disorders could pass as members of the opposite sex with better makeup and voice training, it will reduce their suicidal behavior, Takamatsu said at a Tokyo symposium on the quality of life for transsexuals and transgenders. Transsexuals are people who wish to undergo sex-change operations or sex reassignment surgery, whereas transgenders are people who live, or have a psychological urge to live, like members of the opposite sex without resorting to surgery. Reiko Kazuki, 46, a makeup artist who offers cosmetic advice to transgenders, echoed Takamatsu's view, saying changing their appearance could alter their way of living and enable them to enjoy a more comfortable life. The survey conducted on 182 clients with gender incongruities who visited the clinic between July 1992 and April 1998, also revealed that some 40% of the clients have not got permanent positions at work, with 20% of them having experience of working in bars or nightclubs. Takamatsu pointed out the need to change the Japanese family registration system which requires clarification of a person's sex, saying the system prevents transsexuals and transgenders from being hired as regular employees. They are usually obliged to submit a copy of their family documents when seeking a job, she said. All Japanese citizens are required by law to be registered in the family registry kept by local authorities. Honoho Morino, 38, a freelance writer and founder of a support group for transsexuals and transgenders, however, said the movement to change the family registration system would be unnecessary if public understanding were gained for transsexuals and transgenders and society accepted such people as they are without discrimination. Katsuki Harima, a psychiatrist who counsels patients with gender identity disorders, said gaining the understanding of their family is also important for their quality of life. Patients' families as well as the patients themselves need proper treatment to ease their mental anguish, as parents often keep blaming themselves for their children becoming transsexuals or transgenders, Harima said. Ruru Ogawa, a director of a film on transgenders, said that despite the measures recommended to improve the quality of transgenders' lives, the most important thing is that they can lead satisfactory lives as they are without resorting to makeup and voice training. On Oct. 16, Japan's first legal sex-change operation on a woman began at Saitama Medical College. According to an estimate by the college, up to 7,000 people in Japan want to live as transsexuals.