LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The first Austrian to gain official documents with a third option beyond male or female on Wednesday hailed the move as recognition for those who do not identify as either.
“(For) the first time in my life, I feel seen by the law,” said Alex Juergen, who is intersex, a term for people who are born with atypical chromosomes or sex characteristics.
“There was no place for people who are not male or female.”
Juergen, who fought a three-year legal battle for recognition, now has a passport with the sex classification “X” instead of “M” or “F” and a birth certificate saying “divers”, which roughly translates as “other”.
In 2018, a constitutional court ruled that the country’s laws allowed for the inclusion of more than two sex options on identity documents.
A growing number of U.S. states, as well as countries including Germany, Pakistan and Nepal, now allow people to choose a third sex option on official documents.
Juergen also called on Austria’s government to make the third option easier to get.
Regulations issued by Austria’s interior ministry after the 2018 court ruling state that a child whose sex cannot be determined should have “open” on their birth certificate until a decision can be made by them or their legal representative.
An intersex person can get “divers” on their birth certificate if they are issued with a report by a panel of medical experts, a requirement that activists want removed.
“This would be a big trauma if someone would force me to go to a doctor again, and a lot of intersex people had the same experience,” Juergen told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
A spokesman for Austria’s interior ministry did not return requests for comment.
Intersex babies often undergo surgery to bring the appearance and function of their genitalia into line with that expected of males or females, which research suggests can lead to psychological damage later in life.
Medically unnecessary surgeries carried out on intersex children without their consent are banned in Malta and Portugal.
“There will have to be another lawsuit of a person who doesn’t have a diagnosis (of an intersex condition),” said Tobias Humer, the head of Austrian intersex advocacy group VIMO.
He also encouraged people who identify as neither male nor female, and who were not intersex, to choose the third option on their identity documents.
Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Additional reporting by Kate Ryan; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org
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