Why Won’t Japan Allow This Trans Woman’s Marriage? 

Why Won’t Japan Allow This Trans Woman’s Marriage? 

The case that broke the Japanese legal system


In 2018, Elin McCready filed to change her gender in the U.S. and planned to do the same in Japan, where she currently works as a Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University. When she and her wife Midori Morita applied to  change their marriage documents in Tokyo to reflect McCready’s new identity as a woman, the Japanese government refused. To acknowledge her as female, the government said, would not be possible in this case because it would imply the acceptance of same-sex marriage — something that Japan has yet to allow.

With Pride Month in full swing, there’s no better time to share this story from Japan’s LGBTQ+ community and spread awareness of the flaws in the Japanese law system that still need to be addressed. McCready’s story in particular is told through the documentary It’s just our family. Produced by ikix Studio and released on March 31 in honor of Transgender Day of Visibility, the documentary is viewable in full on YouTube.

The film follows the life of McCready and Mitori and their children. As we watch their lives unfold, the story reveals the hardships McCready faces living in Japan as a transgender woman, and dives into the more complicated issues faced in the aftermath of her transition that affect her marriage and family. 

Since the Japanese government would not recognize the couple’s marriage now that McCready was female, the couple’s marital status was simply left undetermined and would eventually lead to one of two outcomes: The government could finally agree to update McCready’s identity to female and allow the couple to be in a same-sex marriage, or it could annul their marriage entirely. 

Legally, the government does not have the right to annul a marriage as this can only be initiated by the married couple themselves. If the government decides to annul a marriage, it could lead to a court case. 

The McCready couple are filing a lawsuit to make the government update their marital status, which they believe they could win. The case could be a revolutionary step for the LGBTQ+ community in Japan as it forces the government to face LGBTQ+ rights head on. 

“Elin broke the Japanese legal system,” says ikix studio. “A system that does not allow transgender people to have children, a system that does not allow same-sex marriage, and a system that does not recognize queer people as people with the same lives as those who identify as heterosexual.” 

Japan is known for its slow progress compared to many other countries when it comes to rectifying these rights and laws, especially surrounding same-sex marriage. 

When finally brought to public or governmental attention, McCready says that clear statements or solid solutions are often not given. Instead, many issues that the LGBTQ+ community faces are quietly swept under the rug or passively avoided. 

“Discrimination in Japan happens below the surface,” adds McCready. When revealing their gender identity or sexual orientation, members of the LGBTQ+ community in Japan may experience discriminatory acts such as bullying, violent verbal aggression and ostracism from a friendship group or family, often leading to a reluctance or fear to publicly reveal their true identity, but these overt acts have yet to lead to much substantial, direct governmental change. 

McCready has experienced transphobia herself in Japan — even within the space of more accepting communities such as Shinjuku Ni-Chome, where she was denied access to a gay club on one of the biggest women-only nights in Tokyo. In response to this experience, the couple opened their own club called WAIFU, where anyone of any sexuality, gender and identity is welcome to enjoy a night out in Tokyo.

Photo: Yuki Nakamura

While it’s clear that there is still much progress to be made surrounding LGBTQ+ rights in Japan, this documentary raises further awareness on just how oppressive and complex the system currently is. To show your support for the community, there are many ways to help. Some good places to start would be to check out the couple’s GoFundMe Page, watch their documentary and share this article. 

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