Parents of newborns born in Germany now have a third option for the gender section of their birth certificate. Instead of being required to fill in male or female, they can leave the section blank—effectively creating a third gender option for German citizens.
The BBC says that “the move is aimed at removing pressure on parents to make quick decisions on sex assignment surgery for newborns.”
Roughly 1 in every 2,000 children are born with intersex characteristics, or a mix of male and female genitalia or chromosomes. In many places in the past (including here in the United States), parents were instructed to make a choice as to whether their child would be male or female in the hospital, where doctors would perform gender reassignment surgery. The German government is reportedly willing to include an X in addition to the M and F options on their passports, too.
There are only a few places in the world that have systems this flexible. Australia and New Zealand passed similar measures in, respectively, 2011 and 2012. Other countries, primarily in South Asia, also have a third gender category in a variety of bureaucratic forms. Bangladesh has an ‘other’ category on their passports, and Nepal and Pakistan also allow for a third gender to be selected on some government documents. In India, intersex individuals can now mark an ‘O’ on the voter rolls, though many government hospitals in India refuse to perform sex-change operations.
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