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Male, Female, or Blank: 'Third Gender' Official in Germany from November

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Spiegel Online
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August 19, 2013
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Germany is set to become the first country in Europe to introduce a third, "indeterminate" gender designation on birth certificates. The European Union, which is attempting to coordinate anti-discrimination efforts across member states, is lagging behind on the issue.

The option of selecting "blank", in addition to the standard choices of "male" or female" on birth certificates will become available in Germany from November 1. The legislative change allows parents to opt out of determining their baby's gender, thereby allowing those born with characteristics of both sexes to choose whether to become male or female in later life. Under the new law, individuals can also opt to remain outside the gender binary altogether.

Germany is the first country in Europe to introduce this option -- Munich-based newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung is referring to the change as a "legal revolution". It remains unclear, however, how the change will affect gender assignment in other personal documents, such as passports, which still require people to choose between two categories -- "F" for female and "M" for male. German family law publication FamRZ has called for the introduction of a third category, designated by the letter "X".

The law was passed back in May, but has only now been reported on, following an article this month in FamRZ -- just six weeks after Australia became the first country in the world to introduce legal guidelines on gender recognition. Under the Australian system, which applies to all personal documents, individuals can select the third category irrespective of whether or not they have undergone sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy.