Inter-sex gets positive: Landmark decision of the Federal Constitutional Court

A reason to celebrate – persistence pays off!

“Yes to the third sex” (SZ), “Neither man nor woman”, “The future – unisex?” (FAZ), “Revolutionary” (Die Welt), “Three wins” (taz) – Headlines translated from German from 8 November 2017


The plaintiff, Vanja, did not give up. Only a year ago, her_his lawsuit was rejected by the Federal Court of Justice. Now the judges of the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, the highest court in the country, have ruled in her_his favour. In the constitutional complaint, Vanja brought an action against the current Personal Status Code, which previously only allowed two positive sex markers and, since 2013, a further, “empty” sex marker.The ruling, which was publicly announced on Wednesday, 8 November 2017 and already passed on 10 October 2017, was on the front page of almost every major daily newspaper on Thursday. Now the way is finally clear for the introduction of a third gender marker or the abolition of gender markers in German law. This year, 2018, will be an exciting year, as the federal government must find a legal solution by the end of the year.

The press release of 8 November 2017 by the Federal Constitutional Court states in the English version: Civil status law must allow a third gender option. It further states: “The general right of personality [right to freedom of the person] also protects gender identity, which is usually a constitutive aspect of an individual’s personality. The official assignment of sex is of paramount importance for one’s individual identity; it typically occupies a key position both in a person’s self-image and in the way this person is perceived by others. The gender identity of those who cannot permanently be assigned either the male or female sex is also protected under this right”.

“Civil status is not a marginal issue; […] Civil status defines the central aspects of the legally relevant identity of a person. Therefore, denying the recognition of felt gender identity in itself jeopardises the [sic] self-determined development” (see press release in English).

Inter-sex, which has such a “bad” sound in German from a language point of view, finally gets positive! The ruling will hopefully contribute to the recognition and appreciation of intersex and gender diversity.

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