A Japanese woman has filed a lawsuit against the Osaka hospital where she works after her boss revealed to her colleagues that she is transgender.
Japan Today reported that the woman is demanding the hospital operator in Osaka Prefecture pay 12 million Yen (AUD $168,075) in damages for the “undue emotional distress” she suffered after her boss revealed to colleagues that she had transitioned some years ago.
The damages lawsuit submitted to the Osaka District Court on 30 August said the woman, who isn’t named, was born male and identified as female from a young age before undergoing gender reassignment surgery in her twenties. In 2004, her gender status was changed to female on her official family register.
The woman started working as a nursing assistant at the Osaka hospital in October 2013 when she was in her forties, and was urged by her superior to disclose her birth-assigned gender to colleagues.
Despite telling her boss that it was unnecessary to reveal information about her identity, as she’d officially changed her gender on her family register, her boss reportedly went ahead and told colleagues without her consent.
The woman claims she was later harassed by colleagues, with one telling her “it feels gross” to get changed in the same room as her.
According to the case file, the woman attempted suicide in February 2019 due to significant emotional distress caused by backlash over her gender identity, resulting in a serious injury.
The lawsuit claims the hospital operator failed to educate its employees about transgender issues and violated a law obliging companies to maintain a safe working environment.
“We’d like to respond sincerely and appropriately after confirming the complaint,” a spokesperson for the hospital operator said.
While Japan is considered one of the more progressive countries in Asia on LGBTIQ rights, the act of revealing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity without their consent is a long-running issue.
Transgender people face numerous other challenges under Japanese law, including being forced to be sterilised before they can legally change their gender.
Transgender people are also required to have “a body which appears to have parts that resemble the genital organs of those of the opposite gender”.
While the Human Rights Watch group has condemned these laws as “regressive and harmful”, Japan’s Supreme Court voted to uphold the legislation earlier this year.
Discrimination based on gender identity is banned in certain Japanese cities but gender identity is still considered a contentious topic and remains unprotected by national civil rights laws.
Meanwhile, debates around gender politics continue closer to home, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying he expects signage in his departmental office which gives people a choice of bathroom based on their gender identity to be removed.
Morrison said in an interview with Ben Fordham on 2GB Radio last Thursday that he had spoken with departmental officials about the signage, saying it was “political correctness over the top”.
The toilet sign in question said the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was “committed to staff inclusion and diversity”, and invited staff and visitors to “please use the bathroom that best fits your gender identity”.