Gender Binary Options Are Coming To An End
Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson
New year, new you; 2019 has brought with it the usual personal resolutions and changes to diet, lifestyle and overall wellbeing. One of the biggest changes rolling in with the New Year, however, is that of attitude in terms of binary gender options.
At the end of 2018, a German law was passed to introduce a third option on birth certificates, passports, driver’s licenses and other legal documents. Now, rather than declaring ‘male’ or ‘female’ there is a third option; ‘diverse’.
Last year, Germany’s highest court ruled that without a third category, regulations were discriminatory to those who did not identify in a binary way. However, adults must produce medical certification that proves their gender fluidity in order to legally change to the “diverse” classification. German activists criticised this requirement, arguing that physical or biological traits do not entirely determine gender. Germany’s Association of Lesbians and Gays spoke out about the decision, saying:
“If people feel seriously and sustainably not male or female, the law must allow them to legally register their status as they define it.” (Quartz)
Despite this stipulation, the change in law is likely to affect many people who are, or newborns that will be, characterised as intersex. According to a Human Rights Watch , as many as 1.7% of babies are born with physical characteristics that cannot be categorised as simply male or female. Activist groups estimate that about 80,000 people in Germany identify as intersex.
Outside of Europe, New York has become the latest US state to offer residents a third gender option on their birth certificates. A new law allowing the choice of ‘X’ in addition to ‘male’ and ‘female’ took effect on New Year’s Day. This nonbinary category can be selected by those who identify as nonbinary, as well as by parents who choose the category for newborn children.
Unlike Germany, those who wish to change their own gender marker in New York will be able to do so without providing a doctor’s note or affidavit from a licensed health care facility. New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio praised the law for “furthering the city’s commitment to defending the rights of our LGBTQ community” when he signed the provision in October 2018 (Huffington Post). De Blasio reaffirmed his original statement this week, saying:
“Transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers deserve the right to choose how they identify and to live with respect and dignity. This bold new policy advances the fight for equality and makes our city fairer for all people.”
New York now joins the states of California, Washington and Oregon in offering the ‘X’ option on birth certificates. Similar legislation will see New Jersey joining them on February 1st.
Eliel Cruz of the LGBTQ advocacy organisation The Anti-Violence Project explained his stance when the law was first proposed in New York in June 2018:
“Allowing gender nonconforming and non-binary New Yorkers [to] mark ‘X’ on their birth certificates is an important first step in protecting and ending violence against them.
“When non-binary people are forced to identify as either man or woman, it is dehumanising and harmful towards them.
“Gender is expansive and the X marker on the birth certificate recognises that.”