As of November, Germany will be the first country in Europe to offer a "third gender" distinction on its birth certificates.
A new German law stipulates that children who are born of indeterminate gender no longer have to be categorized as "male" or "female." Instead, parents can choose to leave the space blank on their child's birth certificate, according to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. Those individuals can eventually decide whether to identify as male, female or neither.
The German legislature voted this as an amendment to the Civil Status Act on May 7. As Süddeutsche Zeitung recently noted, the "legal change has received little attention so far." But that all changed when some determined the new law, while progressive, doesn't go far enough.
FarMZ, a German Family Law Journal, recently outlined the measure's shortcomings as such: Once the third gender option is legal in Germany, those who choose to identify as "blank" are going to encounter a host of bureaucratic headaches when traveling abroad. The group suggests that Germany use an "X" to designate third-gender identifiers on its passports.
In the past, the country has been criticized for its stances on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
Though the Germany is more progressive than many of its neighbors, the law often lags behind public opinion. For instance, same-sex marriage is illegal, even though 74 percent of Germans are in favor of legalization, according to Reuters. Same-sex unions are legal, however, and partners are granted equal tax benefits as those of married couples.
Incidentally, Germany's not the only country navigating the legal implications of appropriately categorizing third gender identifiers. Earlier this year, Nepal began issuing "third gender" citizenship certificates. Activists lauded the progressive measure, noting its potential to simplify lives for sexual minorities.
Meanwhile, Sweden's instituted a more vernacular solution to the gender dichotomy with"hen," a third-gender pronoun. The term was recently added to the Swedish National Encyclopedia as an alternative to masculine "han" or feminine "hon."