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Hello, and welcome!

Hello, thanks for visiting! For my first post I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself, and why I have decided to write this blog.

I am a third year BA Japanese student currently studying at the University of London.  As part of my degree programme I will be studying as an exchange student at Kobe University in Japan for 1 year! Although I am excited to be able to spend so much time in a country which I have been drawn to since I was very young, as a FtM (female to male) transgender I depart for my study year abroad with some apprehension.

Back in 2014 I legally changed my name to Phoenix Charles, but I was not “out” to many of my friends at University until April of this year when I decided to fully come out to all of my friends on Facebook. I also emailed my University tutors to let them know. Shortly after this I was diagnosed with gender identity disorder and prescribed testosterone gel, which I have been using daily since May 2017.

For me personally as a transgender person it often feels as though I am quite restricted when it comes to travel. Whenever I got anywhere for more than a few hours I always need to think about things such as, will there be a bathroom which I feel safe and comfortable to use? Will I be out long enough that my chest binder will begin to feel uncomfortable and painful? Do I “pass” well enough to avoid being misgendered? I have gotten used to coping with these issues in the UK, however Japan is unknown territory for me; I will have to discover how to navigate life as a transgender person in Japan.

Although it is early days for me in terms of transition, I have decided that I do not want to put my life and my degree course on hold simply because I am transgender. Nor should I have to. Admittedly I have had emotional ups and downs, however whilst I am mentally an physically fit to do so I believe that I should be able to continue to live a normal life just like any other student my age. It is for this reason that I have chosen to continue with my degree course and take the opportunity to study abroad in Japan. As there doesn’t appear to be much information available online (neither in English nor Japanese) regarding transition in Japan, I have decided to write this blog in order to share my own experiences.

By recording my journey, I hope that other transgender people will be able to learn from my experiences and have a greater insight in to what to expect when traveling in Japan. I also want to show that being transgender doesn’t mean that you must limit your aspirations, even if sometimes the road ahead seems difficult and full of complications. I believe that by stepping out into the unknown and pushing the boundaries which society places upon us is a necessity in the fight for trans equality. I would like to help pave the way for future generations of transgender people to be able to confidently follow their dreams.

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Is Testogel available in Japan?

Is Testogel available in Japan? A question which has been causing me some confusion as of late, since I seem to get different answers depending on who I ask.

When I was first given my prescription for hormones it was suggested that I use Testogel as this would be easiest for me get hold of and self-administer during my travels. As in the UK Testogel is class C drug (ergo unavailable to purchase without a prescription) I assumed that I would need to find a clinic in Japan where I could receive a Japanese prescription. However, when I emailed the Nagumo clinic, a Japan-based gender identity clinic, to ask if I could see them in order to get a prescription I was surprised to be told that I didn’t actually need one.

“androgel is sold in pharmacies, but a prescription is unnecessary. There is the option of buying it yourself without involvement with us.” (translated from Japanese)

(I asked specifically about Androgel, though I probably should have said Testogel really.)

This leads me to wonder why it is that all of the trans-masculine Japanese people who I have encountered so far seem to opt for an injected form of testosterone, which does require a prescription; definitely something to ask around about. To me this also highlights how desperately in need of reform current UK guidelines on the availability of  cross-gender hormones for transgender individuals. Faced with a one year minimum wait to be given an appointment at a GIC, it is not unknown for transgender people in the UK to turn to so-called “black market” hormones (purchased illegally without a prescription). Considering this, it would be interesting to know if the apparent greater availability of hormones has an effect upon the transgender community in Japan, and if so does it have a positive or a negative impact? (From a trans-masculine perspective; I am unsure of the situation regarding hormones for trans-feminine individuals.)

The university which I will be attending in Japan also sent out a sheet to all incoming foreign exchange students on which we could ask the university’s student medical center for advice on receiving treatment for ongoing medical conditions. Although I had already done some research and been in touch with a Japanese GIC at this point, I asked them for advice on where I could buy testogel in order to confirm what I already knew.

“the testosterone 50mg sachet is not currently licensed in Japan, so it is difficult to get a prescription for the gel at any hospitals or private clinics in Japan” (translated from Japanese)

They went on to say that testogel could be bought online without a prescription, and gave me a website which I could buy it from (link below). In short, testogel is available in Japan but it is unlikely to be prescribed as a treatment to transgender individuals; if you want to buy testogel in Japan be prepared to pay the full, un-subsidized cost. The current cost of a one-month supply of testogel is 10, 800 yen, or about £70. Since it is quite expensive I may look into getting testogel sent from the UK to Japan. I will be taking a 4 month supply (I would have taken more, however due to current supply issues it was a minor miracle to find a chemist which had even a month’s worth in stock!), which will give me time to do look into different options and decide what to do.


Website where you can buy testogel online:

https://xn--t8j4c1az540f.com/detail.php?pid=397

There are several websites on which testogel is available, however this is the cheapest that I have seen thus far.

Nagumo GID clinic:

http://www.nagumo.or.jp/osaka

Osaka would be the closest clinic to me, however I believe that Nagumo also has clinics in Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka.