Baby boy or baby girl? As of today, parents in Germany have the option of choosing neither, leaving the gender spot on their newborn's birth certificate blank if the baby's sex can't be determined. As many as one in 2,000 people are born with ambiguous genitalia, and the new law basically creates a third gender category for "indeterminate" or "intersex" people, the BBC reports. Currently, passport holders in the country are listed as either M (male) or F (female); with this change, a third option will be added: X (intersex). Individuals whose gender is left blank at birth can choose later to become male or female, or can remain intersex, Der Spiegel reports.
Germany, the first European country to make such an allowance, reviewed cases of intersex babies and found that many who were subjected to sex assignment surgery at a young age ended up unhappy. The law is an attempt to relax the pressure on parents, who may feel forced to make a quick decision about gender and surgery. But the Wall Street Journal explains the law's wording could actually have the unplanned effect of pushing parents toward surgery. It reads that if a male or female gender can't be assigned, the child "shall be entered without such information in the register of births." Some fear that might lead stigma-wary parents to request surgery that would allow for a definitive determination of sex. Another fear: that intersex people won't have "a space ... to be themselves," as one LGBT activist points out to AFP, noting that schools separate things like bathrooms and sports activities by gender. (Read more Germany stories.)