A seven-year-old Japanese boy with a gender identity disorder has been given permission to attend school as a girl in another sign that the country is relaxing its traditionally rigid attitude towards sexual identity. Local media reported yesterday that the boy, who has not been named, was diagnosed with the disorder before he started primary school in April.
He is said to have complained that he felt uncomfortable being a boy and asked his parents if he could have a sex-change operation. Japan's first such procedure took place in 1998, but patients must be aged 20 or over.

The school, in Kobe, western Japan, agreed to enroll him as a girl after consulting his parents and doctors in what is thought to be the first decision of its kind in Japan. According to reports, he will be allowed to use the girls' bathrooms and changing facilities, and to wear girls PE kit. Only his teachers have been informed of his condition.
An estimated 10,000 Japanese say they have some form of gender identity disorder - a belief that they were born the wrong gender and a wish to live, socially and physically, as members of the opposite sex.

In 2004 they won a significant victory when the law was changed to allow some transsexuals to alter their name and gender on official documents. A year earlier Aya Kamikawa became the first transsexual to enter politics when she won a seat on a local assembly in Tokyo.

Last year doctors agreed to relax the conditions for sex-change operations that had required patients to gain approval from a medical ethics committee. But the country's transsexuals say they have some way to go before they are fully accepted.

A 44-year-old who had fathered two children before changing sex recently failed to register her new gender after a court said it would "confuse" her sons, aged 12 and 14. The revised law allows only transsexuals who are over 19, single and childless and have undergone a sex change to change their official gender.