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 724.

    An interesting subject - for those who don't have to deal with it at least. In a perfect world it would be the individual who chooses, but this can't happen until adulthood can it? It's the parent that decides which school uniform to be worn - the colour of the bedroom - trunks or swimsuit - appearance in general. It's not about the choice, it's about pressure to choose. What a nightmare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    @710 "Who cares anymore what sex. We have evolved almost to the point where there is no need for two separate genders some people are gay some people are not."

    I agree with your sentiments but Sexual Preference is not the same as Gender or Sex

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    I'm a man, married with kids (donor) and (drum roll) intersex.
    1. I have male genitalia, not female.
    2. I look like man, all the right bits
    3. I was raised as a boy/man.
    4. I have an extra X chromosome.
    The biggest barrier faced by intersex men, women and children are some of the views below. I didn't choose this but need to live with it.
    First they came for the Jews... (Pastor Niemoller)

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    The more the merrier. Leaves more women for us real men.

    Aids,HIV tells you people nothing.
    You ARE THE MAN no doubt lol. I imagine with that attitude you get a lot of women.......running away and laughing.

    Please explain oh man of all men what HIV has to do with the gender of a child? Sounds like you are a cave man, all brawn and no brain!

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    @681 You're comparing the crusades (a religiously/politically motivated series of "holy" wars) to communism (60 million killed under Mao's regime alone)? I never said a rleigious utopia exists. Only that society reaches it's high points throughout history when religion practices what it preaches and doesn't become corrupt (which sadly is partly the case today). The world needs reform desperately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    @393 Sir Guffington and @24 "GOD created EVERYONE, as @24 rightly said, WOMAN is from MANS rib, I do NOT remember reading in the bible about a THIRD gender"

    Yeah I don't remember reading about Noah collecting 2 kangaroos either, but I'm damn sure they exist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    2 Minutes ago

    Has it ever occurred to you that a male may be born in a female body?
    I am male, I would love to be in a female body. When I'm not sat in front of a mirror, I would be busy dominating my social circle and flirting my way up the corporate ladder with ease.

    There is no downside to having the best of both worlds. Thanks for stopping by.

  • rate this

    Comment number 717.

    Err.... What could be more sensible than allowing the child to develop until which sex they wish to be is clear.

    Only people who seem to be against this are the sad god botherers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 716.

    #710 Its sex that fuels evolution. Its the fastest way of mixing DNA and diversity is vital to survival.

    As animals that live in social groups there's an overall advantage to the population having 'tribe' or 'pack' members who are gay or otherwise can't have kids themselves. Its extra adults to guard the kids, forage for food etc which helps the kids & the family DNA is passed on & spreads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    @453. Alpharius, this law will help by giving them the time to choose who they want to be until they are capable of expressing themselves. Adding/removing a penis or a vagina is a bit different than a leg! I think it makes complete sense. Only the person should be able to chose who they want to be!

  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    @704 ddu08
    "Natural/Unnatural is a stupid distinction"

    Yes,it's nature that produces people who are like this - so how can it be called "unnatural".

  • rate this

    Comment number 713.

    What a story the photograph tells about socialized medicine in Europe! Two infants - one of them not White - per crib. The children these will grow up to have will probably be three to a crib, and only one of them White!

  • Comment number 712.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 711.

    @698 - "I'll stay male no matter how 'cool' being other becomes"

    You honestly think people "decide" their gender based on fashion?

    Has it ever occurred to you that a male may be born in a female body? How would you feel if your alpha-male sense of self was suddenly transported into a female body and people were telling you how obvioulsy female you are?

    Gender is a scale, not a binary choice

  • rate this

    Comment number 710.

    Who cares anymore what sex. We have evolved almost to the point where there is no need for two separate genders some people are gay some people are not. Evolution and not GOD is responsible for this, and future evolution will ultimately lead us should the human race not become extinct to being sexless beings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    1st - 1 in 2000? That seem awfully high to me - I just don't believe it's that high. 2nd - many are referring to a '3rd gender'. There is no third gender in nature and the Germans are giving the option to keep the gender field blank, not create another - the correct approach. Using a different name wouldn't change anything even if we called them 'angels'. We'd still be pigeon-holing them.

  • Comment number 708.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 707.

    Trolls are really derailing this HYS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    ( Quote ) 'I've never met anyone with this problem'. Fact: most of us will have come across someone who is intersex at some point in our lives, even if we don't know it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    For everyone here with a simple life, a little consideration for those whose life is complicated would go a long way.


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