German parents will now have three gender options to choose from when their child is born. On their baby’s birth certificate, individuals will be able to select “male,” “female,” or “diverse.”
The change was approved on Thursday by the Bundestag following Cabinet approval in August. The extra category is intended to recognize the existence of intersex people after the Federal Constitutional Court claimed forcing individuals into a prescribed gender box is discriminatory to those who identify outside the binary.
Its November 2017 ruling forced the government to devise an alternative or stop listing gender on birth certificates altogether.
The policy is in line with countries like Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, and Portugal, which have rolled out third gender options in recent years. Germany will also permit individuals who feel their gender has been miscategorized to update their name and gender marker on birth documents.
But unlike neighboring Austria, Germany mandates individuals provide a note from a physician before their gender can be corrected.
That requirement has been opposed by LGBTQ rights groups.
Henny Engels, a board member for Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Federation (LSVD), said having a medical professional be the arbiter of someone’s identity misunderstands what gender is. According to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Engels claimed “gender cannot be determined solely by physical characteristics, but is also determined by social and psychological factors.”
Many lawmakers joined LSVD in criticizing that provision.
“Why should you produce a doctor’s certificate to change your civil status?” argued Green Party representatives Monika Lazar and Sven Lehmann in a statement. “That must be a self-determined decision that is open to all.”
In the three-year court challenge which led to the change, the plaintiff who appealed to the Federal Constitutional Court submitted genetic analysis indicating they don’t have a second X chromosome. Typically, individuals who are assigned female at born are “XX,” while men adhere to an “XY” genetic makeup.
Such testing could be extremely expensive for Germany’s intersex population, which is estimated to be around 160,000 people. This group represents up to 1.7 percent of the global population.
The decision otherwise found wide support from figures on all sides of Germany’s political divides.
Franziska Giffey, the federal minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, called the amendment “an important step toward the legal recognition of people whose gender identity is neither male nor female.”
Earlier this year, Justice Minister Katarina Barley referred to the gender marker updates as “long overdue.”
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