Germany’s Cabinet has agreed to instate a third gender option, aptly named “diverse,” to exist along its “male” and “female” categories. Prior to this, the only other option for people of different gender identities was to leave their gender entry blank. Franziska Giffy, the center-left minister for families in Germany’s conservative-leaning coalition government, has described this new decision as “an important step towards the legal recognition of people whose gender identity is neither male nor female”.

On 15 August, the German Cabinet approved a draft law that is a turning point in the long and tempestuous battle between Germany’s LGBTQ and intersex activists and the country’s legislative bodies. While the decision still awaits parliamentary approval, it represents a massive social turn in the wake of a three-year legal battle, wherein a plaintiff unsuccessfully fought to have their gender marker in the birth registry changed from female to “inter/diverse,” despite having documented evidence of their own intersexuality in the form of a genetic analysis. Where cisgender women have two X chromosomes and cisgender men have an X and a Y chromosome, the plaintiff’s self-analysis revealed the existence of only an X chromosome. The Federal Constitutional Court then ruled in October 2017 that authorities could choose to omit a gender marker in civil registers or to implement another “positive designation” of sex that was not male or female.

In the event of approval, the new Cabinet decision will, in theory, require “tests” to determine whether a person is intersex, according to Richard Koehler, a policy advisor for Transgender Europe.

Where other LGBTQ campaigners believe this new decision to be a step in the right direction, some feel that the German Cabinet’s decision does little to alleviate pressures that transgender people in the country are currently facing, and are calling for new legislation that will make it easier to change one’s gender markers on existing documents. Markus Ulrich, a spokesperson for the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that for trans people, “…nothing has changed regarding the obstacles they face to change their registered name and gender.”

Green Party lawmakers Sven Lehmann and Monika Lazar also questioned the limitations of the Cabinet’s decision in a joint statement. “Why should you produce a doctor’s certificate to change your civil status? That must be a self-determined decision that is open to all.”

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