Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Germany Legalizes 3rd Gender Option, Rejects Sex Binary

The notion that sex, along with gender, consists of more than just two categories is gathering more and more traction with the news that Germany is authorizing a third category in the sex registration of new-born babies with indeterminate sex characteristics. Such individuals are usually referred to as intersex, but there is a long, unfortunate history of the medical profession forcing parents to choose what sex they want their newborn to be identified as and conducting surgery (sometimes without their knowledge) to force them into one sex category or another.
Germany is to become the first European country to allow “undetermined” as a gender type for new-born babies when, on November 1, a recommendation by the country’s constitutional court comes into law. 
The new legislation means that babies who are born without gender-defining physical characteristics can be registered as having an “undetermined” or “unspecified” gender on their birth certificate.

The law aims to redress discrimination against intersex people, a category which includes those born with both female and male genitalia (formerly known as hermaphrodites), and those affected by medical conditions that mean their bodies do not conform to a male or female “standard”. Around 1 in 5,000 people born in Europe identify as intersex.
Although only 1 in 5000 people in Europe identify as intersex the deconstruction of the sex binary also leads to the deconstruction of the gender binary which is helpful to people who believe in broader notions of masculinity and femininity (like yours truly) and associated ideas around sexual orientation, sexuality and gender identity.

The decrease in the salience of the idea that sex and gender are binaries is a key indicator that people are thinking more broadly about these categories which should lead to advancements for LGBT people as well. So, it' somewhat surprising to see that this advancement would happen in Germany which is one of the few large European countries which does not currently recognize marriage equality explicitly.

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