This is a story of sex changes, bureaucracy, nationalism, and amazing examples of ineptitude.
My son has turned 15 recently, which made him eligible for receiving the matured life insurance policies that I took out nearly fifteen years ago. They were policies on me, and I took out two of them to mature around now as investments for his school tuition. I went in armed with my inkan and health insurance card to liberate the funds and send them to another institution for better return. I filled out the forms, inkanned them, produced my insurance card to prove my identity and my relationship to my son, in whose name the policies were taken out. I was sure that I had it in the bag.
No such luck. I was called back to sign another form, promising that I had not had a sex change operation and changed my sexual identification between the time that I had taken out the policies and present. This was based on a new law governing family registrations, which had previously not recorded sexual identification, and would have an effect on the amount of money to which my son was entitled if it were found that I had changed my gender. I claimed that signing such a form would be useless, because as a foreigner, I do not have a family register. I am not listed on any of my family’s family register. Foreigners do not exist in the same legal framework as their Japanese family.
a) The Foreigner as Invisible Family Member. Japan has a Family Registry (koseki) system, whose bugs appear in the case of international marriages (i.e. citizen with non-citizen). Even though the marriage is recognized under Japanese laws as legal, the Koseki does not list foreigners under the “husband” or “wife” columns. Instead, they are listed with the fine print of the family dossier. Not only is this profoundly disrespectful to the institution of marriage, but also social welfare systems often kick in, sending information to what appears to be a single-parent household. http://www.debito.org/ayakoseki.jpg
Quoted from Arudou Debito’s “Treatment of Japan’s International Residents“
Not only do I not exist with my spouse, but with regard to my children also. Thus it would be a meaningless gesture to sign such a form and have this personal information circulating about me. The agent tried to explain the problem from a number of different angles, but I refused to sign a meaningless document, and explained that in the Japanese government’s effort to impose a discriminatory practice, which they have promised the UN that they would not do, that they have created a problem for themselves.
After looking at the form more closely, I found that there was only one of the three qualifications that would apply to a family registry. The others were vows that I had not ever changed my sex. I agreed to check those two and sign the document. Done deal, but the whole mess would have to go to Gifu to be approved since I did not sign all three of the qualifications.
Yesterday I got a call from the Yubinkyoku. The representative started by saying, “I am calling about the form you signed the other day about transsexual operations. You signed the form, and that is not a problem, but…” at which point I started to laugh. I knew what was coming. They had realized that a form about a family registry is meaningless to me as a foreigner, and that they had no proof at all that I had not changed my sex. I had signed the paper, and it was meaningless. No independent proof exists that I had not had a operation.
So instead of any proof that the Japanese system could muster, they wanted me to show them a passport that was issued before 2004. I just laughed and explained that my passport is a document issued by the US government for the purpose of crossing boarders, not for verifying my gender now or in the past to the Japanese postal service. I am by law not required to show the police my passport, much less mailmen. I explained that they had created a disciminatory system against international residents, and they had no way to confirm information about them internally, but instead had to depend on the residents’ countries of origin to provide information. Then, as I carefully explained the fruits of discrimination, I looked at a passport issued to me in 1986. It didn’t even have my gender in it. I explained it to the representative, who then insulted me by asked me two more times if I was sure that it wasn’t written anywhere in the passport. After I chastised her roundly for insinuating that I couldn’t read, I suggested that they call back when they either had my son’s money or a solution for their problem.
The representative called back, and suggested that they would solve the problem internally without additional documentation.
The whole event left me so angry last night that I had trouble sleeping, which I almost never do. The whole special-treatment-for-foreigners system is so flawed it’s rediculous. They can’t even decide what order they want names written in. I’ve been filling out forms recently that want my family name first and given name second. I know that someday this will come back to haunt me, because it is written like that on these forms, but not on any form that I have written previously.