Germany: First European state to introduce a third option for gender

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From today, Germany becomes the first country in Europe to give parents the choice to leave the child’s gender indeterminate on their birth certificate.

From 1 November, birth certificates in Germany will have the option of selecting “blank”, as well as “male” or “female”.

Parents who use the “blank” option will allow for their offspring, such as those born with characteristics of both genders, to decide on their gender identity in later life, or to opt out of gender binary altogether.

Dr Philipp Sp​auschus, spokesman for the Federal Ministry of the Interior, told “This regulation accounts for the considerations of the German Ethics Council on the issue of ‘intersexuality’ and makes it clear that a gender is not entered in the birth entry, if it is not absolutely certain”.

He continued: “An essential aim of the new regulation in marital status law is to take off the pressure on parents to commit themselves to a gender immediately after the birth of their child and thus to make doctors provide sex reassignment surgery prematurely”.

University of Bremen law professor Konstanze Plett told AFP: “This will be the first time that the law acknowledges that there are human beings who are neither male nor female, or are both — people who do not fit into the traditional legal categories”.

Experts estimate the population of intersex people at one in 1,500 to 2,000 births.

The new law has raised the profile and awareness of the intersex population, but also it could lead to discrimination.

“It is an absolute must that parents, teachers and doctors be educated about the lives of intersex people,” said Lucie Veith, head of an intersex support group in Germany.

“The government must take measures to ensure that no children are discriminated against because of this new law.”

Silvan Agius, who is Policy Director at ILGA Europe which is the European region of International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, says this does not go far enough.

“What will be more difficult”, Silvan argues, is to address “the medicalisation of intersex people and for society to open up to sex diversity and include intersex people adequately “.