BBC News reports that Germany has become the first European country to recognize a third gender for babies with characteristics of both sexes. In other words, parents will no longer have to declare “male” or “female” gender on their baby’s birth certificate. Instead, the new law will allow them to declare gender “undetermined” or “unspecified.”
According to BBC News, the purpose of the law is to take the pressure off of parents who might make hurried decisions on sex assignment surgery for infants. ABC News adds that the law is also designed to combat discrimination against intersex people.
A report written in 2011 by Silvan Agius and Christa Tobler and supervised by Migration Policy Group on the authority of the
European Network of Legal Experts in the non-discrimination field, entitled “Trans and intersex people Discrimination on the grounds of sex, gender identity and gender expression,” defined the difference between intersex people and trans people.
“Intersex people differ from trans people as their status is not gender related but instead relates to their biological makeup (genetic, hormonal and physical features) which is neither exclusively male nor exclusively female, but is typical of both at once or not clearly defined as either,” the report read. “These features can manifest themselves in secondary sexual characteristics such as muscle mass, hair distribution, breasts and stature; primary sexual characteristics such as reproductive organs and genitalia; and/or in chromosomal structures and hormones.”
According to the Intersex Society of North America, experts at medical centers say that for about 1 in every 1500 to 1 in every 2000 births a specialist in sex differentiation is needed to determine the baby’s gender. However, the ISNA also notes that a lot more people than that are born with indistinct forms of sex anatomy differences, some of which won’t appear until later in life.
The ISNA recommends that sex assignment surgery should not be performed until a child is mature enough to make an educated decision for herself or himself.
According to ABC News, Australia and Nepal allow people to indicate male, female or a “third gender” on their official documents.
What do you think of Germany’s new law? Does it go far enough? Should the U.S. follow suit? Start a conversation by sharing your thoughts in the comments section.