Identities and gender at the Bucerius Kunst Forum in Hamburg

Today, 6 November 2019, a literature evening with author Ulrike Draesner will take place at 8 pm at the Hamburg Bucerius Kunstforum. Her novel Mitgift (Dowry; 2005) is one of the first German-language novels with an intersex main character. The organiser is the charitable foundation ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius.

For further information about the event, visit: “

Guest article “Smart women fighting for gender justice”

This year saw a film released in Germany depicting the struggle of Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the equal rights of women and men in the USA: “On the Basis of Sex” (released in Germany as “Die Berufung – Ihr Kampf für die Gerechtigkeit“). Bader Ginsburg has been a US Supreme Court Justice for many years, and through her legal knowledge and skill she has fought against the closed ranks of men for equality, achieving a number of basic rulings – which are similar to the articles of German Basic Law.

Elisabeth Selbert should also be mentioned in this context as part of the history of the Federal Republic of Germany. After the war, she sat on the Parliamentary Council (Parlamentarisches Rat) to formulate what would become German Basic Law. In the face of all opposition and against a seemingly all-powerful world of men, she was able to ensure that German Basic Law explicitly included “Men and women shall have equal rights”. Nevertheless, there were several legal provisions that contradicted this. At that time, Section 1628 of the Civil Code (BGB), for example, prescribed that the father had the final word of authority in matters of education and upbringing. Ultimately, the patriarchy was granted a preferential right, in clear contradiction to the Basic Law.

Dr. Erna Scheffler was the only woman among the judges of the Federal Constitutional Court, which was established in 1951. With clever argumentation, she was able to overturn the unconstitutional wording of the paternal right to final decision. The court ruling of 1959 caused a storm of indignation among the supporters of a patriarchal family order. (Further reading in “Zeithistorische Forschungen” Online edition, 2 (2005)).

In recent years in Germany, the question has been raised whether people with the medical diagnosis “diverse sex development” (DSD), or intersex persons, should be independently recognised alongside female and male persons in the Personal Status Code (PStG). In a law of 2013, it was required that, apart from female or male, these individuals must be registered as “unregistered”, i.e. effectively without gender affiliation.

It is in this context that Prof. Dr. Konstanze Plett has rendered outstanding services to the legal recognition of intersex people. As the legal representative of an individual and with the collaboration of jurist Prof. Dr. Friederike Wapler and lawyer Katrin Niedenthal, she submitted to the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) so many expert opinions and international statements that the BVerfG was compelled to rule in this person’s favour: With her clever argumentation, she succeeded in dismantling the binarity of the sexes, the legally defined gender binary. The rights of individuals who do not fit into the scheme of only man or only woman – the BVerfG spoke of the “third option” – were recognised by the BVerfG in 2017. This legal recognition of a third option is the crucial factor. It is independent of whether many people or only a few officially acknowledge the newly formulated status of “diverse”.

Platt’s decoration as Member of the Order of Merit, an honour which was conferred on her by the Federal Minister of Education and Science in mid-March 2019, was also a result of her many publications in the fight for the human rights of intersex people.

Jörg Woweries, Berlin

Gender diversity in law: We congratulate Professor Konstanze Plett on being awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, with a presentation speech by Dr. Jörg Woweries

Gender diversity and justice needs clever, fearless, committed, persistent and optimistic fighters. The jurist Prof. Dr. Konstanze Plett from the University of Bremen has been awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of her special services and commitment to the recognition of the rights of intersex people. Not least among her achievements is her successful launch of the “Third Option” constitutional complaint in collaboration with lawyer Katrin Niedenthal and jurist Prof. Dr. Friederike Wapler. This constitutional complaint brought before the Federal Constitutional Court in 2017, and the carefully prepared submission made by the three lawyers on which it is based, formed the legal framework for the introduction of an additional positive sex marker in German law in December 2018 (see blog post of 21 December 2018). Given this background, it is disturbing to read Martin Spiewak’s assessment in his controversial article „Diverse Missverständnisse“ published recently in DIE ZEIT (see DIE ZEIT of 9 May 2019, p. 39), that this was the result of “superficial research by the highest German court”. Continue reading “Gender diversity in law: We congratulate Professor Konstanze Plett on being awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, with a presentation speech by Dr. Jörg Woweries”

He or she? Easy – the human being and the person! DIVERSE encounters at the 2019 HOOU Project Symposium at MARKK




Alex* Jürgen and Katinka Schweizer on the podium

To mark the occasion the new legislation on the third gender marker entry being adopted into the Personal Status Code, we held our 3rd HOOU (Hamburg Open Online University) project symposium on 13 May 2019, this time at the former Hamburg Museum of Ethnology, now known as MARKK (Hamburg Museum am Rothenbaum – Kulturen und Künste der Welt). The very well-attended event “DIVERSE Bodies – DIVERSE Identities” was opened by the deputy mayor of Hamburg, Senator Katharina Fegebank, after the welcome address by project manager Katinka Schweizer.

The symposium was recorded and can be listened to as a podcast in German at “Hamburg Hört ein HOOU ” (the Twitter link is here). Continue reading “He or she? Easy – the human being and the person! DIVERSE encounters at the 2019 HOOU Project Symposium at MARKK”

Inter Care + Awarness Workshop in Israel: Multilingual encounters vs. lack of words when dealing with diverse sex development

Hebrew University, Mount Scopus (Jerusalem)

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.


“Diverse” as entry in the birth register

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.

Intersex in sporting competition: The current state of debate

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.

Continue reading “Intersex in sporting competition: The current state of debate”

Grand Coalition law passed: Diverse is an option!

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 wording of the bill, previous documents, and the political process can be followed and read on the pages of the Bundestag.