Germany has just become the first European country to officially recognize a third gender. The German Federal Constitutional Court ruled that citizens must be able to identify as neither male nor female on official records.
The ruling came about after a case was brought by a person who had been registered as female, but who wished to be identified as inter/diverse or diverse. The person had undergone a chromosomal test that proved the person was biologically neither gender. This can occur when a person is intersex, which is a term that describes a variety of conditions where a person is born with sexual anatomy that does not fit the traditional definitions. An intersex person frequently has chromosomal variations that differ from he typical XY male and XX female.
The constitutional court declared a window of just over a year where the government must determine a third gender category. A German government official said they did plan to comply. Options for the third category include “inter”, “diverse”, or “various”. Another possibility is scraping the gender identification options all together.
Officials had originally rejected this case because current birth certificates legally only offer the options of selecting male, female, or leaving the gender blank. Activists argued that this discriminated against intersex individuals, and was a violation of the claimant’s rights.
The court found that the law should protect all gender identities because it plays a key position in how people are viewed in the world. Those individuals who do not fit the definition of male or female should also be protected, and should not be discriminated against because of their gender. In a seven-to-one ruling, the court said of gender: “It typically plays a key role both in the self-image of a person and in the way in which the person concerned is perceived by others. The gender identity of those persons who are neither male nor female is protected.”
Australia, The United States, India, New Zealand, and Nepal all already offer a third gender option on official documents. Earlier this year, an American named Sarah Kelly Keenan became the first person to be issued a birth certificate with “intersex” on it. Advocacy group, Third Option, called Germany’s official ruling “a small revolution” and said that they were “completely overwhelmed and speechless”. The news is a huge victory for the 80,000 people in Germany who identify as intersex.
Since 2013, the gender option on birth certificates could be left blank. Prior to this, if there was any question as to the sex of a child, a box would still have to be selected. Intersex activists still protested that leaving the box blank was not acceptable, and did not recognize the thousands of German citizens who identified otherwise.
By the end of 2018, there will be a third gender option. The new legislation is being drafted with intersex individuals in mind, but it remains to be seen whether the new option will also satisfy non-binary and gender fluid citizens. However, including the option of “diverse” would seem to satisfy more individuals than only those who are intersex. Here’s hoping for a more inclusive future, and Germany’s court ruling is certainly a big step in the right direction.