Germany approved an official third gender category for gender non-conforming, intersex, and non-binary people on Thursday, making it the first European country to do so.

In addition to the categories of male and female, citizens will also be able to self-identify as “divers”(which translates roughly in German to “miscellaneous” or “other”) the Independent reports.

Its parliament also passed a change in the law that will allow for citizens to retrospectively change the gender on their birth certificates to reflect their identity. The legal change was approved after Germany’s highest court ruled last year that it was unconstitutional to make people identify as either male or female in official documents.

The law was put through by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition of conservatives and social democrats following a campaign from group Third Option that backed the changes. In a statement published on the Daily Mail,

Third Option described it as a “major step with regard to visibility and legal equality.”

Now citizens will be able to change their assigned sex on birth certificates.

However, it’s not all positive news. Under the new policy, physicians will have to certify a person’s “gender variations” in order to change their birth certificate. Due to this, the law does not grant unrestricted self identification, but requires identification to be certified by a physician.

Third Option criticized this aspect of the change in law, describing it as contrary to the court decision, and called for the medical approval clause to be withdrawn.

What the medical clause implies is that certain behavioral traits or features are necessary to identify as either male or female, and individuals looking to change their gender must have these traits. This idea is not exactly a fair representation of the judgment given by Germany’s highest court, which deemed it unconstitutional to force citizens to identify as either male or female, signifying that every German citizen has the unqualified right to self identification.

In Denmark, Malta, Ireland, Belgium, Portugal, and Norway, trans people can self-identify and retrospectively change the gender marker on their birth certificate without medical approval. In the UK, a government consultation recently asked for the public to give their views on allowing a similar policy of self-identification for trans people.

Germany passed the new law after an intersex adult brought a case to Germany’s constitutional court in 2017, arguing that the state should not force intersex people to choose between male and female on official documents.

It is the first country in Europe to have approved a third option for official documents. (Countries including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Pakistan and Nepal have already introduced similar legislation.) It is also the first European country to allow parents to register their babies as a third gender after a separate category was introduced in November 2017.

Previously, parents of intersex babies had to leave the gender box blank on birth certificates.


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