Germany allows 'indeterminate' gender at birth


The BBC's Stephen Evans in Berlin says that it's not yet clear what this will mean for German law on marriage

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Germany has become Europe's first country to allow babies with characteristics of both sexes to be registered as neither male nor female.

Parents are now allowed to leave the gender blank on birth certificates, in effect creating a new category of "indeterminate sex".

The move is aimed at removing pressure on parents to make quick decisions on sex assignment surgery for newborns.

However, some campaigners say the new law does not go far enough.

As many as one in 2,000 people have characteristics of both sexes.

'Bruised and scarred'

Sarah Graham, intersex woman and counsellor: "This pink and blue thing is a nonsense"

They are known as "intersex" people because they have a mixture of male and female chromosomes or even genitalia which have characteristics of both genders.

The intense difficulty for parents is often that a gender has to be chosen very quickly so that the new child can be registered with the authorities, the BBC's Steve Evans in Berlin reports.

Sometimes surgery is done on the baby to turn its physical characteristics as far as possible in one direction or the other, our correspondent says.

The law in Germany has been changed following a review of cases which revealed great unhappiness.

In one case, a person with no clear gender-defining genitalia was subjected to surgery. The person said many years later: "I am neither a man nor a woman. I will remain the patchwork created by doctors, bruised and scarred."

German passports, which currently list the holder's sex as M for male or F for female, will have a third designation, X, for intersex holders, according to the interior ministry.

Silvan Agius, ILGA-Europe: "It does not address the surgeries... and that's not good"

It remains unclear what impact the change will have on marriage and partnership laws in Germany.

Current laws define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and civil partnerships are reserved for same-sex couples.

Silvan Agius of IGLA-Europe, which campaigns for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex people, said the law needed to go further.

"While on the one hand it has provided a lot of visibility about intersex issues... it does not address the surgeries and the medicalisation of intersex people and that's not good - that has to change," he told the BBC.

While Germany is the first country in Europe to legally recognise a third gender, several other nations have already taken similar steps.

Third gender recognition

  • Australia - passport applications since 2011
  • Bangladesh - passport applications since 2011
  • Germany - on birth certificates from 2013
  • India - electoral roll since 2009
  • Nepal - census since 2007
  • New Zealand - passport applications since 2012

Australians have had the option of selecting "x" as their gender - meaning indeterminate, unspecified or intersex - on passport applications since 2011. A similar option was introduced for New Zealanders in 2012.

In South Asia, Bangladesh has offered an "other" gender category on passport applications since 2011.

Nepal began recognising a third gender on its census forms in 2007 while Pakistan made it an option on national identity cards in 2011.

India added a third gender category to voter lists in 2009.

While transgender or intersex people have long been accepted in Thailand and are officially recognised by the country's military, they do not have any separate legal status.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

    The number of moronic responses here is staggering. Babies are born like this, yes even in the UK!

    Germany is giving parents and doctors time to think about what, if anything, to do about it without the added legal mess of having to decide on one sex and then find this doesn't fit the child's biology.

    I only wish the UK could be so enlightened, not so anally frightened 'cos it's not "normal".

  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    One would hope that genetic aberrations of this rare type will continue to be addressed by medical science so they become rarer still and where it does occur those people are given the opportunity to make gender identification they want to make.

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.


    & none of what you say happened before?! What you describe has always been the way, we just hear about it more & are now more willing to question it rather than follow the preachings of our betters(?). With the decline of religion I would suggest we no longer forgo the ills of the living world in hopes of a heaven but strive for a better here & now as it is the live we know we have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    I did watch a television program where one of those present at the birth of Queen Elizabeth 1st reported that as soon as she was born those present marvelled that here was "A boy - but without a willy".

    Can't remember the name of the program, unfortunately, but I am pretty certain that Rowan Atkinson was in it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    When all this nonsense has blown over, we'd better hope there are enough plain old boring males and females left to continue the species, or we're going to make one hell of hipster mess for the next, far more successful, species to laugh at.

    I'll do my part, I'm OK with the cards I was dealt. Ok, so I wish I could have chosen easy or even cheat mode but it's not so tough even on Hardcore mode.

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.

    To all those you are using religion to judge the Germans on this issue I would like to point out there is no God, sorry but that is the truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 658.

    Of course in such cases only the child itself can know what gender it leans towards, it's not a decision that can be made by a parent when a child is a few days old.

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.

    It's probably easier for intersex kids in Germany, where children are grammatically neuter anyway

    I don't think the grammar is the main issue about whether intersex kids are accepted.

    I think they may have slightly bigger barriers to overcome such as ignorant uneducated people, some of whom have commnented on this very thread!

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    Quite nice. Been a long time coming. I just hope different groups in societies will accept it with open arms, though I know they wont (at least at first).

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.

    Posters that have not heard of hermaphroditism (Hermes and Aphrodite, geddit) should perhaps check that out before declaring that there's 'no such thing'. it's called intersex now - the pc version. Anyone referring to themselves as 'Christian' who thinks that people born 'different' should be put to death - err, wrong century, i'm afraid. Torquemada is dead, people, move on! No one is entirely m/f

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    @650 All those things you mentionned would have eventually come about whether there was religion or not. How can you claim otherwise? As for today's society, I was referring to increasingly corrupt politicians, massive debts, many people living beyond their means, unborns being killed simply not the right "specification" and humans in general being treated more and more like commodities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 653.

    Oh my word..... there really are some outrageous religious comments on here! The rapture will come, god will smite thee who interferes??? Get a grip! Biology is fact and these occurrences are entirely natural, unlike the atrocities you commit in the names of your supposed "gods". Well done Germany, you are acting as a nation should.

  • rate this

    Comment number 652.

    how do you know if the baby is third gender on the first day of the birth? you only know if its boy or girl?

  • rate this

    Comment number 651.

    Simply amazed by the level of ignorance of some postings on this forum. If you know nothing about it then why bother to post at all?, your ignorance is hardly going to enlighten or help others. Maybe the public need to read up on this issue before they make a comment or at least learn to empathise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 650.

    629 "Western society has tried to destroy religion as much as it can already, giving us today's world. You're welcome to it (note sarcasm)."

    Thanks, I'll take today's world, where my disabled children get a wonderful special school, respite, holiday clubs etc, over "yesterday's world" where they would have been killed or left to rot in an institution. I guess much the same applies to these kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 649.

    "591. Ravisher1005
    This is probably the only article in recent days that people are voted down for having common sense views..."

    Common sense is what you think when you're not thinking.

    And what is your username supposed to tell us?

  • rate this

    Comment number 648.

    At birth only, it seems.
    I don;t if somebody should be able, or not, to have half a sex change in adulthood and then put indeterminate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 647.

    I consider myself Christian and it disturbs me to see some of the so called religious comments on here. It is a FACT that some people are born with the characteristics of both sexes. The German decision is a very enlightened one. For God's sake, don't be so bigoted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 646.

    A Y chromosome doesn't mean you are fully male..........
    If you were XXXY (which can happen) you are technically more female genetically. Or you can have some cells with a Y and some without in the same body.

  • rate this

    Comment number 645.

    "24.Mega Awesume Pooster
    God created WOMEN from the rib of MAN. God did NOT create another gender. THIS IS BLASPHEMY"

    Makes one wonder why men and women have the same number of ribs, then.

    I reckon you might be a bit off course with your dogmatic statement there, pooster.


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