On the occasion of the new Personal Status Code (PStG), the third hoou (Hamburg Open Online University) project symposium took place on 13 March 2019, this time at the “Museum am Rothenbaum – Kulturen und Künste der Welt” (formerly “Völkerkundemuseum”). The well attended event „DIVERSE bodies – DIVERSE identities“ was opened by Hamburg‘s second Major Senator Katharina Fegebank after a greeting from the project head Katinka Schweizer.
The second workshop of the German-Israeli project „Improving the Psychosocial Approach to Intersex“ took place from 19 to 21 February 2019 in Jerusalem. This project, which is also called „Inter Care-Awareness“, was initiated by the sociologist Dr. Limor Meoded Danon (Hebrew University, Jerusalem) as well as the psychologist Dr. Katinka Schweizer (University Medical Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf).
In total, 30 German and Israeli participants, including psychologists, social workers, parents and lived-experience experts work together in co-projects. The projects aim to evaluate and improve psychosocial care of intersex persons and their relatives in both countries. The working groups deal with various topics such as religious approach to intersex, parental groups, positive intersex information, sex therapy, further education in medicine, psychology, and other areas of society, e.g. the military. The children’s book “Jill ist anders” [Jill is different] was translated into English and is now accessible via this link. Translations into Hebrew and Arabic are planned as well. In Jerusalem, the working groups presented their impressive results. The groups succeeded to contribute to a higher visibility of intersex as well as a better dealing with this topic.
The difficulty of communication was not only an issue of interculturality, but also of respectful naming of diverse sex development and bodily ambiguity. The latter was subject of heated debates. The participants agreed that the struggle for correct terminology must not end. The project was funded by the Stiftung deutsch-israelisches Zukunftsforum.
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.
The German Bundestag has just passed the “Bill amending the information to be entered in the register of births“, with votes from the SPD, CDU, FDP and AfD.
The bill from the Grand Coalition, which was only slightly revised between the first and second readings, was thus adopted. A resolution proposal and amendments by BÜNDNIS 90/ Die GRÜNEN and die LINKEN was rejected.
Initial reactions and statements are already online:
The controversial debate in the Bundestag on the current draft bill concerning the amendment to the Personal Status Code (PStG) and on the sex marker entry is currently in progress on parliamentary television (2nd and 3rd readings). You can follow the debate in the live broadcast: https://www.bundestag.de/mediathek
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