Germany to allow “third gender” on birth certificates

Parents will no longer have to put male or female on their child’s birth certificates in Germany, as the country has enacted a law that will allow parents to assign a “third gender” if sex cannot be clearly identified at birth.

This new law, in my opinion, is a step in the right direction, as parents should not be forced to assign their baby a “male” of “female” identification [sometimes by cutting off body parts if they are ambiguous in order for their child to fit into one of the two categories]. By forcing parents to assign a sex, parents are essentially solidifying that child’s fate— either into a male or female stereotyped world,— when the child might not actually associate with that gender. By allowing parents to assign a third gender, the child will have the opportunity to assign him or herself a gender later in life.

Germany to become first European state to allow ‘third gender’ birth certificates

German parents will no longer be legally obliged to register their newborn child as male or female, and will instead be officially allowed to assign the baby a “third gender” if the sex cannot be clearly identified at birth.

The new law will come into force on November 1, on the back of a constitutional court decision which states that as long as a person “deeply feels” that they belong to a certain gender, they have a personal right to choose how they legally identify themselves.

Parents of newborn infants will be allowed to leave the gender form on the child’s birth certificate completely blank if it is born with unusual physical characteristics making it impossible to determine the gender.

The new law will apply to intersexuals, also known as hermaphrodites, rather than transsexuals. Hermaphrodites are people in possession of both female and male physical characteristics.

Justice Minister Sabine Leuthheusser-Schnarrenberger said the decision will have deep repercussions and will require “comprehensive reform” of all documents issued by the state. Adult passports currently require people to state their gender, partly to avoid potential problems when traveling abroad.

The ‘third gender’ designation will also have an effect on marriage laws. As of now, only men and women are allowed to legally marry in the country. Homosexual couples can enter into a civil partnership, and no provisions are made for unions between other genders.

Germany is the first European country to implement such legislation, although Australians have allowed citizens to mark their gender on a passport as X since 2011. New Zealand followed suit last year. Activists in both countries say the legislation has helped curb discrimination against transsexuals and those of indeterminate gender, whether they have had gender reassignment surgery or not.

Silvan Agius, policy director at human rights organisation ILGA Europe – the European branch of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association – told Spiegel newspaper that the decision will push the rest of the EU to do the same.

“Germany’s move will put more pressure on Brussels,” Agius said. “That can only be a good thing.”

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About Haley Behre

I graduated from Syracuse University in December 2011 with majors in newspaper journalism and women and gender studies. Using these majors, I aspire to become a journalist who writes about human rights issues. I have held internships at the Syracuse New Times, Dash Media PR Firm, Syracuse Post-Standard and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. I also had an internship at the Not For Sale Campaign Syracuse chapter, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking. I was born in Seoul, Korea on September 30, 1990 and moved to the United States before I was one year old. When I was 8, my family and I moved to Norwich, England for three years. While I was here I was immersed into a new culture and got to experience many things other children my age do not get to. Over the three years, I visited Ireland, France and the Netherlands several times, and Belgium, Wales and Sweden once. In the winter of 2010, I got an amazing opportunity to visit Kenya for a month. This was by far the single most eye-opening experience of my life thus far. The natural beauty of the landscape and its people do not compare to anything I have seen. I currently intern for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press in the hopes of getting a full-time job at a newspaper or non-profit after.
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