Instead of “M” or “F,” parents may list their children’s sex as “X.”
Starting November 1, the parents of babies without “clear gender-determining physical characteristics” can register them without a sex on their birth certificates and other official documents.
Parents will also be able to enter the “blank gender” for children whom they believe will not in the future want to be “labeled” either male or female. The child has the option of entering either gender later in life.
Steve Williams, a British homosexual campaigner writing for Care2.com, said that although German legal experts have denied that the law introduces a “third gender,” “others have noted…that there is no mandate for a child to choose or a time limit for how long they can remain in the ‘undefined’ category.”
“As such, this would seem to operate as a narrow third gender recognition even if it isn’t being called such,” he wrote.
Until this change, proponents say, hermaphrodites and “intersex” people have never been recognized on birth certificates in any European country.
The law comes from a review by the German Ethics Council, commissioned by the federal government, said the situation of “intersex people” still needed better acknowledgment in law and protection from medical decisions taken on their behalf at an early age and “other forms of discrimination.”
The new law follows a series of decisions by the courts that a person who believes himself to be a particular gender has the legal right to be identified with that gender, regardless of his physical characteristics.
Justice Minister Sabine Leuthheusser-Schnarrenberger told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that “comprehensive reform” would be required on all other legal documents for the new law to fully take effect.
“If the child cannot be identified as female or male, the personal gender is to be left blank and to be so entered into the births register,” the law says.
“A key aim of the new rule is to relieve parents of the pressure of having to decide a sex straight after the child’s birth, and thereby agreeing overly hastily to medical procedures to settle the child’s sex,” an unnamed spokesman for the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The spokesman also denied that the change means that the government is inventing a new gender, saying that it merely allows the box on the forms determining male or female to be left blank.
Some homosexual activists are expressing dissatisfaction with the law, saying it relies too much on physical or biological characteristics and fails to take into account the individual’s preference.
Silvan Agius, policy director of the Brussels-based International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA Europe), said, “Unnecessary surgeries will likely continue in Germany with devastating consequences…we live in a world where having a baby classified as ‘other’ is still considered undesirable.”
The Australian and New Zealand governments adopted similar measures this year, with New Zealand parents being allowed to enter an “X” for the sex of their children. Six months ago, Australia started allowing parents to register their children as “intersex.”
Germany already allows a person to change his legal gender with a medical diagnosis of transsexualism and if the person has felt the need to live “according to their desires” as a different sex for at least three years. Previously, he must also have been permanently infertile, and have had surgery to change his external sexual characteristics to a “significant approximation” of the desired sex.
The law was changed in 2011 to allow a person to simply self-designate as either sex according to preference without physical alteration.
In 2008, the courts changed the law to allow married persons to change their legal sex.
Germany also requires that a person’s first name be gender-specific, and the courts have also ruled that a person whose name-gender has been legally changed has the right to be addressed as “Herr” or “Frau” according to the new named gender. All documents in the case of named gender changes must reflect the person’s self-determined sexual identity, with no requirement of any surgical or biological alterations. People who have changed their named gender are not required to inform their employers of their new legal gender.