On Friday, Germany made history as the first European country to allow parents with newborn babies the choice of leaving the gender blank or 'indeterminate' on birth certificates. Now, babies who are born with characteristics that are traditionally associated with both sexes don’t need to be registered as male or female. Instead, they can be categorized in a third option of “undetermined” or "indeterminate sex.”
Up to one in 2,000 people obtain characteristics of both the male and female sexes. Thanks to the new law, parents will no longer be forced to make hasty decisions when it comes to sexual reassignment surgeries for their newborns. The policy allows a newborn's birth certificate to be left blank in cases where they are not clearly male nor female.
One person who wasn’t born with any traditional gender-defining features was forced to undergo surgery and, all this time later, told the BBC their life was greatly affected by it. "I am neither a man nor a woman,” the person said. “I will remain the patchwork created by doctors, bruised and scarred."
The new law marks a huge victory for transgender and intersex identifying folk. It could also lead to shifts in other progressive policies.
"This will be the first time that the law acknowledges that there are human beings who are neither male nor female, or are both -- people who do not fit into the traditional legal categories," University of Bremen law professor Konstanze Plett told the Agence France-Presse .
“Not everyone is thrilled about the legislation, claiming it’s only skimming the surface of a complicated, deeper issue. Silvan Agius, an activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex rights, told the BBC “the law needed to go further.”
While Germany is spearheading the policy in Europe, they’re not the first country to do make this move. Back in June, Australia reformed their national guidelines to allow individuals to choose a third gender option (X) on personal documents in addition to male or female.
“We recognise individuals may identify, and be recognised within the community, as a gender other than the gender they were assigned at birth or during infancy, or as an indeterminate gender,” explained Australian Attorney General Mark Dreyfus.
The rest of the world is starting to take a hard look at their gender identity policies, and for the most part, people in the United States also recognize the importance of these issues.
While being intersex is clearly different than being transgender, a 2011 Public Religion Research Institute study showed a significant majority of Americans are in favor of the rights and legal protection of transgender individuals. Eight-nine percent of survey respondents think transgender people deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans.