- November 1, 2013
Post submitted by Tushar M, HRC Global Engagement Fellow
Starting today, Germany will become the first country that allows parents to leave their child's gender blank on their birth certificates. This is a big step in recognition of the intersex condition and the rights of the infant to determine its own sex and gender when it is born intersex.
An intersex person is someone who is born with either rudimentary sexual organs (internal or external) of both sexes, or doesn't have a complete set of sexual organs enough to classify them as strictly male or strictly female. Such individuals only begin expressing traits of a particular gender in their late childhood, which is when it is considered appropriate to attribute a gender identity to them. Often considered a taboo subject, the intersex condition is well documented and has only recently come in to the picture with countries starting to address this complex issue.
Germany's new law is being hailed as a stepping stone towards acceptance of gender non-conformity and the rights of the individual in choosing their gender. "People who do not fit into the traditional legal categories... We will have fellow human beings with no sex registered. They can't be forced into either one of the traditional sexes in these other contexts." stated University of Bremen law professor Konstanze Plett.
With the increase in the number born without discernible genitalia, it is appropriate to wait until the child begins to exhibit and express characteristics of a particular gender before making a determination.
Earlier this year, the United Nations condemned "normalization" surgery, citing research that surgeries aiming to create an either anatomically male or female body for intersex infants often leads to more harm than help. Such surgeries are an attempt at "helping" intersex infant genitalia look either completely male, or completely female, and have been called a violation of the rights of the infant. Intersex infants are generally assigned either a male or female gender, since even in countries as progressive as Germany knowledge around issues of intersex people is extremely limited.
The German law reportedly states that if a child "cannot be assigned to the female nor the male gender," their status "shall be entered without such information in the register of births."
Australia was the first country in the world that officially allowed a third gender option on passports in 2011. Many other South and South East Asian countries have started issuing voter IDs, and other official documents, that allows applicants to specify a third gender, “Other."