Court rules Germany must offer a 3rd gender option

Picture taken on July 28, 2014 in Gehrden near Hanover, northern Germany, shows intersex person Vanja, who was registered as female, but a chromosome analysis found to be neither male nor female, and who brought an appeal on civil status. (Photo credit should read PETER STEFFEN/AFP/Getty Images)

A ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court on Wednesday will require lawmakers in Germany to provide citizens who don’t identify as either male or female with a third gender category option by the end of 2018. The court ruled that binary gender designations violate a person’s right to privacy. The ruling also allows for German lawmakers to abolish gender designations altogether in public documents.

In 2013, Germany offered parents the option to register newborns as neither male nor female, the first European country to enact such a measure. Advocates hailed the court’s decision as a pivotal one. “It seems to be very clearly about not forcing people into a particular gender marker label, and I think that’s very important,” Hayley Gorenberg, general counsel at Lambda Legal, a U.S.-based advocacy organization, told the Times. “The fact is, just like any other personal characteristics, gender is on a spectrum and not everybody falls into the binary category of male or female.”

The concept of a third gender option has been gaining momentum. All told, The New York Times reports, Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand, and Pakistan all recognize third gender options on passports or federal identification documents. Earlier this year, Canada began issuing passports with ‘X’ as a third gender option, and last month, California’s governor signed a law that officially recognizes a third gender option on birth certificates.

India has been on the leading edge of the third gender revolution. Last year, Women in the World editor at large Zainab Salbi traveled to India to profile the movement that’s been taking place there. One of the people she spoke with in her piece is Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, the gender activist who convinced India’s Supreme Court to think beyond male and female. Tripathi has appeared at multiple Women in the World events, most recently joining Indian journalist Barkha Dutt for a discussion at the New York Summit in April of this year. Below, watch their conversation on gender fluidity and identity.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


Activist behind India’s third gender revolution speaks out

Demand for legal 3rd gender designations surges in wake of landmark legal victories

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