New German 'third gender' option excludes trans people: campaigners

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A new German third gender option does not go far enough, campaigners said on Thursday, after Berlin became the first European government to introduce the choice for intersex people.

Germany’s cabinet on Wednesday voted to introduce a third category of “divers”, or various, alongside male and female on birth certificates and other official documents, complying with a federal court ruling.

LGBT campaigners said the move did not go far enough and called for new laws to make it easier for people who do not identify with the gender they were born to change their sex on official documents.

“For trans people, nothing has changed regarding the obstacles they face to change their registered name and gender,” Markus Ulrich, a spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The introduction of the new third gender category came after the Federal Constitutional Court called on lawmakers last year to enact legislation to either introduce a third category or dispense with gender altogether in official documents.

The ruling followed a court appeal brought by an intersex adult and said that courts and state authorities should no longer compel intersex people to choose between identifying as male or female.

In 2013, Germany became the first European country to recognize indeterminate sex by allowing babies born with no clear gender-determining anatomy to be put on the birth register without a male or female classification.

Richard Koehler, a policy advisor for Transgender Europe, said the new category would in theory require “invasive” tests to determine whether a person was intersex.

“Those who cannot or do not want to submit themselves to such invasive medicalization will remain excluded and without legal recognition. This is discriminatory,” he said.

Some campaigners however said the new law was a step in the right direction.

It makes Germany the first European country to allow the third option. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and Nepal have already done so.

“It is a step in the right direction and we hope other states will follow,” said Moritz Prasse, the spokesman of the Third Option campaign group, which backed the original legal challenge.