On Thursday, 13 December 2018, just in time for the deadline set by the Federal Constitutional Court, the new law was passed allowing an additional sex marker entry, “divers”, for “gender diverse”, on the birth register. Altogether there are now not just three, but even four options to mark sex on the German birth register, namely “female”, “male”, “undefined/open” and “diverse”. This means that people with variations in physical sex characteristics can now also obtain a positive designation of their sex on the birth register. Children born since 2013 and registered with indefinite sex, and adults who had their sex entry changed to “undefined”/X after 2013, are now no longer forced to leave the entry open. The law can be seen as an important step towards the recognition of gender diversity.
However, there is also criticism, as the law is seen by some as a minimal solution. The requirement to have the body sex variation certified by a doctor in order to be able to enter “diverse” is too strongly linked to physical characteristics and therefore violates the right to sexual self-determination (cf. the article in the “Zeit” from 14 Dec. 2018, the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” article from 14 Dec. 2018, and the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” article from 14 Dec. 2018). Nonetheless, an affidavit is a sufficient alternative to a certificate for those who have been traumatised by surgery or medical examinations, but this nonetheless still excludes others.
On the 3sat TV channel in Germany, the short documentary “Zwitter und Intersexualität” [Hermaphrodites and intersexuality] was broadcast on the occasion of the new legislation – with intercultural comparisons, references to the importance of gender in opera/music and competitive sports, and with an interview with the sexual scientist Dr Katinka Schweizer.
Since October 2017, there has been a debate in Germany about a third positive sex marker in the birth register, and a new law has now been in place in Germany for a few days. Nevertheless, the discussion about sex categories that has been going on for decades in international sporting competition seems to have remained untouched by this. As in 1966, it is limited to the question of whether and on what basis it is possible to exclude track and field athletes from international competitions if they have a variation in physical sex characteristics.
On 21 November 2018, an AfterwOERk panel discussion on “Intersex and Gender in Open Teaching and Learning Materials” took place at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW) as part of the Hamburg Open Online University (HOOU). The discussion panellists were Isabel Collien, consultant for diversity and intersectionality at the HAW, and Dr Katinka Schweizer, psychologist and sexual scientist at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf. The moderators Ellen Pflaum and Jakob Kopczynski began by discussing the panellists’ projects within Open Educational Resources (OER) and then asked about the potential and difficulties they entail. You can listen to the panel discussion as a podcast [in German] here.
On Thursday, 13 December 2018 at 15:40, the second and third readings of the Bundestag on the amendment to the sex data to be entered into the civil status registry will take place. The draft bill on this amendment will be discussed and voted on (see this PDF of the draft bill and blog post of 6 November 2018), as well as a proposal of the political party die LINKEN which calls for the following points, among others:
Prohibition of deferrable, non-essential operations on children that aim to instate “gender non-ambiguity”
Amendment to the Personal Status Code (PStG) to the effect that all persons may freely choose their civil status “without major obstacles”, which will repeal the German Transexuals Act (TSG)
Prohibition of disclosure, i.e. access to the previous civil status of a person only permitted with his/her authorisation
On 26 November 2018, the Committee on Internal Affairs and Community (Internal Affairs Committee) held a public hearing on the draft law “Amendments to the information to be entered in the register of births”. The legal experts present were Dr Petra Follmar-Otto, Dr Anna Katharina Mangold and Prof. Dr Konstanze Plett, the doctors Prof. Dr Susanne Krege, Prof. Dr Anne Richter-Unruh and Dr Christian Spaemann, as well as Lucie Veith for the Federal Association “Intersexuelle Menschen e.V.” Other relevant disciplines, such as psychology and education, were not represented. You can view the video [in German] under this link.
On the eve of International Intersex Awareness Day, the TV channel ZDF marked the occasion with a reference to the topic in the TV series “Lena Lorenz”. The day is observed every year on 26 October. The episode “Eindeutig uneindeutig” [“Clearly ambiguous”] in the series “Lena Lorenz” (90 min) is about the birth of an interchild with partial androgen insensitivity (PAIS) and the questions this raises. The episode vividly depicts the pressure families can be put under to quickly assign children born with ambiguous genitals to the female or male sex. The enlightened physician, who is familiar with the new medical guidelines, and the level-headed, caring midwife, Lena Lorenz, turn out to be a stroke of luck for the child and the parents and prove to be genuine role models.
“Normalising” surgical interventions without a clear medical reason (indication) are condemned and have been declared obsolete. However, the advice of both professionals is only hesitantly accepted by the family. In the end, it is the young brother of around 6 years of age who stands up for his sibling and brings his parents to their senses by showing them what is really important: accepting one another and loving one another just the way each person is.
In this episode, the falsely assumed duality of the sexes is called into question. Different points of view and conflicts are raised, for instance in statements like “Everyone always wants to be individual and special, and when it gets real, everyone has a problem with it”.
The film can still be viewed here in the ZDF media library up until 3 January 2019.
Today a panel discussion on the third sex marker in the birth register will take place at 8pm at the International Psychoanalytic University (IPU) Berlin. Further information can be found under this link and in the blog post of 23 October 2018.