German Law: Parents of Intersex Kids Can Pick ‘Gender Undetermined’
Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — On Nov. 1, Germany became the first European nation to recognize a third gender for babies born with ambiguous genitalia. No longer will newborns be rigidly assigned to male or female. The new law doesn’t require parents to declare any gender for such children, allowing parents to declare gender “undetermined” or “unspecified” on their birth certificates.
The aim of the law was to take the pressure off parents who might make hasty decisions on sex-assignment surgery for newborns, and to fight discrimination against those who are intersex.
An estimated one in 2,000 children born each year is neither boy nor girl — they are intersex, part of a group of about 60 conditions that fall under the diagnosis of disorders of sexual development, an umbrella term for those with atypical chromosomes, gonads (ovaries or testes), or unusually developed genitalia.
Gender identification is still not well understood, but most experts in the United States say that when sex cannot be determined, it’s better to use the best available information to assign it then to wait and monitor the child’s psychological and physical development before undertaking surgery, if at all.
A report filed to the European Commission in 2011 described intersex people as “differ[ent] from trans [sexual or gender] people, as their status is not gender related but instead relates to their biological makeup (genetic, hormonal and physical features), which is neither exclusively male nor exclusively female, but is typical of both at once or not clearly defined as either.”
“These features can manifest themselves in secondary sexual characteristics, such as muscle mass, hair distribution, breasts and stature; primary sexual characteristics such as reproductive organs and genitalia; or in chromosomal structures and hormones,” the report continued.
The report also gives an overview of the discrimination faced by intersex and transgender people in the realm of employment, as well as levels of harassment, violence and bias crimes.
Already, Australia and Nepal allow adults to mark male, female or a “third gender” on their official documents. In June, a 52-year-old Australian, Norrie May-Welby, became the world’s first recognized “genderless” person after winning a legal appeal to keep an “unspecified” gender status for life.
German passports will have a third designation other than M or F — X, for intersex, according to the Interior Ministry.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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