Germany’s New Gender Legislation
Last week, the Constitutional Court in Southern Germany recognized third gender in official state documents and certificates. The Court is giving the country’s Parliament until the end of next year to implement this.
The proposal stems from a Court ruling involving an intersex plaintiff by the alias of Vanja, who demanded proper labeling for their gender in respective recordings that display a citizen’s gender. Vanja had previously lost a court decision in the country’s Federal Court of Justice, in which the plaintiff argued for the removal of the category of gender from their birth registration and other accompanying documents. With Germany’s new policy, citizens that identify as intersex or gender non-conforming have the option to identify with a third gender.
Intersex is a chromosomal condition that creates particular hormonal and sexual anatomy that do not generally align with the scientific parameters of the genetic makeup of XY (male) or XX (female) sex chromosomes. Intersex populations make less than two percent of the world population. However, this statistic is muddled in medical interventions used on newborns to disambiguate sex characteristics for societal conventions, and the actual statistic of intersex people could be higher.
Gender non-conforming individuals do not necessarily come from anatomical positioning. The term is used by individuals who reject the societal aspects connected to their biological sex, and ultimately discard the societal construction ascribed to the male and female gender. Non-conforming is also used as an umbrella term for other gender identities, such as non-binary, transgender, and genderqueer.
While Germany is a spearhead for this progressive initiative in the European Union, it is noteworthy to mention that other countries like Australia, India, Nepal, and New Zealand have similar legislation to recognize third gender in state documentations.
The United States has also demonstrated similar steps. Last month, Californian Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 179, dubbed as the “Gender Recognition Act,” which annuls the requirement of individuals having to undergo medical treatment (i.e. sex reassignment surgery) to request a change of gender on birth certificates or on a driver’s license. Additionally, the bill allows for a gender non-binary option.
New York is the first American state to provide “intersex birth certificate” to citizens born in 1961 and after. Most recently, Betsey Driver was elected to the borough council of Flemington, New Jersey in the local elections, becoming the first intersex person in the United States to be voted into a public office. Driver, along with other members in The Intersex Society of North America, have pushed for awareness in the intersex population.
One of their achievements is pushing for the recognition of Intersex Awareness Day on October 26, to promote awareness in the country, to halt life-altering practices like medical intervention to intersex newborns, and to educate the general population on the rights of intersex people.
Despite an increased awareness, there is still a lack of knowledge or acceptance surrounding the prospects of an alternative gender from the general public. Intersex groups are still fighting against newborn gender reassignment surgery— where in some cases parents are not even made aware of the nonconsensual and hazardous practice that leaves significant psychological or biological trauma to individuals. Gender non-conforming people face challenges to their autonomy as well. This ranges from policies that restrict their identity presence, such as a military ban in the United States, to physical violence and capital punishment, like in Iran where transgenderism can be met with the death penalty.
It goes without saying that the rights movement of intersex and gender non-conforming individuals demands more attention. Engaging in conversation with others on the issue, as well as focusing on awareness and needs of these groups, is not only helpful, but promotes a necessary goal to creating a more inclusive society.