WMC News & Features

LGBTQ advocates say German third-gender choice does not go far enough

Embed from Getty Images

Germans may soon be able to select a third gender option on their official identity records. On Wednesday, the nation’s Cabinet approved a draft bill that would enable people considered intersex to register their genders as divers, a word that roughly translates to “miscellaneous” or “other.”

The draft bill—which next moves to Parliament for approval—soon came under criticism from LGBTQ and some intersex campaigners, who said it doesn’t go far enough. According to experts, the legislation only applies to people with secondary sex characteristics that do not fit neatly into the category of “male” or “female.” If the bill is passed in its current form, the third gender category would not be available to trans people, who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth—regardless of their secondary sex characteristics. 

“For trans people, nothing has changed regarding the obstacles they face to change their registered name and gender,” said Markus Ulrich, a spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The bill was drafted after a Constitutional Court ruling in November 2017. The ruling found that a binary gender registration system violated anti-discriminatory protections as well as the right to privacy. “Assignment to a gender is of paramount importance for individual identity; 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 court said in its decision. “The gender identity of those persons who are neither male nor female is protected.”The ruling was praised by transgender rights activists when it was issued.

As drafted, the current bill could put a heavy burden on intersex people (or their parents) who seek to register under the diverscategory. Theoretically, the law could mandate invasive screening tests by medical professionals to determine if someone qualified to select the category. 

“Those who cannot or do not want to submit themselves to such invasive medicalization will remain excluded and without legal recognition,” Richard Koehler, policy advisor for advocacy group Transgender Europe,told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Intersex people face routine discrimination in their everyday lives. Children with ambiguous genitalia often undergo “corrective” surgeries so their bodies will visibly conform to “female” or “male” norms, even if they are far too young to consent to these operations. In April, Portugal became the second country in the world, after Malta, to prohibit genital operations on intersex infants unless the procedure is medically necessary. 

A number of other countries already offer a third gender category on government documents, including Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada. and Portugal. Several U.S. states—including Oregon, Washington, New York, California, and Washington, D.C., allow individuals to select a third category on their driver’s licenses. In June, New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio backed a proposalto enable people born in the city to select a non-binary category on their birth certificates. People would be able to opt into the third category without a letter from a physician or health provider—simply by submitting an affidavit requesting the gender-identity change.

More articles by Category: International, LGBTQIA
More articles by Tag:



Sign up for our Newsletter

Learn more about topics like these by signing up for Women’s Media Center’s newsletter.