Germany’s parliament has voted to recognize a third gender for government documents, meaning that citizens can now be recognized in the European country as male, female, or diverse.
The change in law came late Thursday night and follows a 2017 court ruling which required the German government to either allow a third gender or to scrap gender classification altogether.
Germany is the first country in Europe, therefore, to allow parents to declare their children as ‘divers’ (diverse) from birth. The 2017 court case which brought the change was heard at the Karlsruhe constitutional court and concerned a complainant who had been proven to have no chromosomal sex from birth but was nevertheless registered female.
The court ruled a refusal to allow the individual to have their gender changed to a third gender was discriminatory and unconstitutional.
This was followed by the government cabinet agreeing in November 2018 that the new term to adopt would be divers, rather than other mooted alternatives such as inter or various. Deutsche Welle reported at the time that intersex births — where the child has an X chromosome but not XX or XY, results in approximately one in 2,000 births.
For those wishing to change their government documents to divers in later life, the new law requires them to be verified by a doctor, a requirement which lobby groups have said is contrary to the court ruling and should be dropped by the government.
Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Association has objected on the grounds that the new law recognizes gender as being purely biological, and they argue it should also take account of “social and psychological factors”, reports Zeit.
Before now, people who would identify as divers could leave the gender space blank. Between 80,000 to 120,000 people in Germany are believed to identify as intersex.
The move follows a 2017 change in Canada, which introduced ‘X’ as a gender on passports, alongside M and F. Other countries worldwide that recognize a third gender in official documents include Australia, New Zealand, India, and Nepal.
The move from the department for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship is intended to “support LGBTQ2 rights” and advance the Canadian government’s “agenda on gender equality, diversity and inclusion”.
“An ‘X’ will make it easier for people who do not identify as female (‘F’) or male (‘M’) to acquire passports and other government-issued documents that better reflect their gender identity,” reads a government statement.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said he made the changes so that all Canadians could “feel safe to be themselves” and “live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose”.
“By introducing an ‘X’ gender designation in our government-issued documents, we are taking an important step towards advancing equality for all Canadians,” Hussen added.
“X” will be available on passports from August 31st.
Other countries that allow for a third “unspecified” gender category include Australia, Denmark, Germany, and New Zealand.
In April, British LBGT activist group Stonewall called for a gender-neutral “X” option for UK passports, claiming transgender people are “afraid to travel abroad for fear of intrusive questioning or difficulties at passport control”.
In June, Canada’s province Ontario passed legislation that allows the government to seize children from families that refuse to accept their child’s chosen “gender identity” or “gender expression”.
Bill 89, “Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act, 2017”, was approved on June 1 by a vote of 63 to 23.
The Minister of Children and Youth Services, Michael Coteau, who introduced the bill, said earlier this year that a parent’s failure to recognise and support a child’s gender self-identification is a form of “child abuse”, and a child in these circumstances should be removed from their parents and placed into “protection where the abuse stops”.
In the same month, in the first case of its kind in the country, a baby in British Columbia was issued with a health card with the letter “U” for a gender marker. The child’s “parent”, non-binary transgender Kori Doty, also petitioned the government to have baby Searyl’s gender omitted from their birth certificate.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
December 14th, 2018