Germany will now allow parents to leave the gender of their newborns blank on their birth certificates, which will create a third gender option. The gender of the child will later be revealed with an X option on their passport instead of the typical M or F.
The legislation, which went into effect on Friday Nov. 1, was enacted in order to give parents and children more time before making life-changing sex reassignment decisions. The country is the first European nation to offer the third gender designation.
The Intersex Society of North America reports that as many as 1 in 1,500 to 1 in 2,000 babies worldwide are born intersex, meaning they have parts of both sex’s genitalia.
Intersex, which was formerly known as hermaphroditism, includes many conditions where external and internal genitals do not match the same sex.
This includes “XX intersex,” or people born with female XX chromosomes and ovaries, but have external genitals that look like male. Others are people with male XY chromosomes with internal fully formed or partial testes, but have external female-like genitals, called “XY intersex.” People characterized as “true gonadal intersex” have both ovarian and testicular tissue, as well as male, female or indeterminate external genitals. There are also some individuals with undetermined intersex disorders, that have no discrepancy between their internal and external genitalia, but they may have chromosomes that are different configurations besides the typical 46 pairs of XX or XY.
Dr. Hertha Richter-Appelt, a sexual scientist at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany explained to Der Spiegel that forcing a certain gender on a baby may create issues that for that child later on in life. While many people who have sex reassignment surgery as an infant are okay with the decision, some intersex people may not agree with the sex their parents chose for them. Richter-Appelt said it’s best to wait until the child hits puberty before considering sexual reassignment treatments and surgery.
“When the issue is definitively deciding what is truly better for the children, we have to be honest and say that we often don’t know,” Richter-Appelt said.
Silvan Agius of IGLA-Europe, a human rights group focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex issues, told the BBC that more needs to be done than the passage of this law.