Germany Introduces a Third Gender Category on Official Documents

Its parliament just approved an option for gender non-conforming, intersex, or non-binary people on birth certificates.
December 14, 2018, 12:45pm
A rainbow flag flies in front of a German government building
Credit: myLAM / Alamy Stock Photo

Germany approved a third official gender category for gender non-conforming, intersex, and non-binary people on Thursday. 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.”

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the change in law, describing it as contrary to the court decision, and called for the medical approval clause to be withdrawn.

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, 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.