A German law allowing intersex people to register a third gender on official documents has now gone into effect with the beginning of the new year.
Approved by parliament on 14 December, the law extends legal recognition to intersex individuals on documents such as birth certificates, making Germany the first country in the European Union to do so, reports CNN.
The new legislation came after a 2017 ruling that not allowing an intersex person named Vanja to change the gender marker on their birth certificate was unconstitutional
“I asked myself so many times what it means to be intersex; I often was upset when I had to decide which box to tick — male or female. I felt (like I was) being pushed into the corner, that I had to adjust non-voluntarily,” Vanja told CNN.
They plan to change their gender marker to ‘divers’ to celebrate the new law, saying they believe it will give them “a new feeling of peace”, but acknowledged that it was just one small step towards further intersex acceptance.
“Societal acceptance cannot be mandated by a court ruling, but it is a step in the right direction.”
The legislation has drawn criticism for requiring applicants who wish to be identified as ‘divers’ to undergo invasive medical examinations to prove they’re intersex.
Senior lecturer at London’s The City Law School, Grietje Baars, told CNN that subjecting intersex individuals to unnecessary medical examinations could potentially inflict further trauma on people who often have a history of “traumatic medical interference with their genitalia”.
Baars also believes it reinforces outdated views on gender being a biological trait.
“You can not simply decide gender by looking at people’s genitalia,” they said.
Baars stated that the German government should have abolished the gender field altogether.
“It’s like abolishing registering your religion or race on your ID or documents — it does not mean you can no longer be Catholic or black … those things are not the same. I am just saying that it is no business of the state to register and categorise people in that manner,” they said.
Criticism has also been aimed at the fact the legislation is limited only to intersex individuals, rather than anyone who doesn’t identify as male or female, such as trans or gender diverse people.
Speaking to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Federation said, “For trans people, nothing has changed regarding the obstacles they face to change their registered name and gender.”
In Australia, gender recognition on official documents is generally the responsibility of state governments.
Australian passports allow the use of ‘X’ as a gender marker in situations where someone doesn’t identify as male or female, whereas driver’s licences in many states leave off gender altogether
In the Northern Territory it’s now possible to amend your birth certificate to reflect if you are intersex or gender diverse, while Tasmania’s lower house recently passed legislation which could give parents the option of leaving gender markers off of birth certificates.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and federal Liberal MP Stuart Robert have both been vocally critical of the proposed changes in Tasmania, although their arguments have little to do with the contents of the actual legislation.