Germany Now Recognizes Third Gender On Birth Certificates

It's estimated 1.7% of the population is intersex, making the condition about as common as having red hair.

Germany’s high court has ruled that the country must recognize a third-gender option on birth certificates for parents of babies who are born intersex.

The November ruling, which was in response to a registered female whose chromosome test confirmed they were genetically neither male nor female, makes Germany the first European country to offer a third gender option: A French court ruled against offering a “neutral” option in 2016, the same year the U.S. issued its first intersex birth certificate.

The German government has until the end of the year to pass a law updating birth certificates with a third category, which could be designated “inter” or “various.” It’s not clear if the designation could also be used by gender-nonbinary Germans wishing to update their birth certificates.

Intersex activists described the ruling as a “small revolution,” according to the BBC.

Previously, the gender box on a birth certificate could be left blank, but more often, officials would arbitrarily assign a baby as either male or female.

“Intersex” is a blanket term referring to people who are born with sex characteristics that fall outside the traditional notions of male and female bodies. Sometimes the differences are physical, other times chromosomal. It’s believed up to 1.7% of the world’s population is intersex—making it about as prevalent as red hair. Unfortunately, many intersex people are subjected to unnecessary and irreversible surgery.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.