One out of 2000
people are born with characteristics
of both sexes.
This means that somewhere between three and four hundred thousand Europeans are neither wholly female nor wholly male. That is
more than the total population of
Stigma and torture
For people with alternative gender identities are brutally stigmatised today. The World Health Organisation (WHO) still lists people not fitting into either category of male or female as suffering from a mental illness. They removed homosexuality from this list as late as in 1990. Children born with both female and male genitalia therefore often undergo surgery to become "normalised". This practice is so harmful that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture recently called on all member states to ban it.
British author Lady Colin Campbell is an outspoken example of this. She was surgically changed to a boy after being born with genital deformities, and raised accordingly. During her teenage years, she suffered horrible bullying at an all-boys school, and was also subject to hormone treatments to make her more male. So not only can genital surgery in itself be severely destructive. The consequences of choosing the sex of a baby, without clear indications of what should be chosen, can haunt a person for a lifetime.
Further yet, four
out of five trans-persons in
Civil society: – Far from enough
Silvan Agius, of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), says no.
The same does Hida Viloria, chairperson of Organization Intersex International (OII).
Agius and Viloria claim that the German measure is an outright failure. They maintain that the medicalization of intersex people and the surgical treatments without medical reasons are the most fundamental issues. These are not addressed by the new law.
also argue that the law creates new problems. Health insurance in
That the medicalization of intersex people continues with this law is undoubtedly a massive letdown. But that basic services are not provided to gender-free individuals is easier to mend – if the political will is there. The latter is also something that, at any rate, needs to follow after, not precede, a law like this.
And what the law first and foremost does is to officially acknowledge that people do not have to belong to either the male or female gender. Even if that is all, this recognition is a stride that should not be taken lightly. No other European country has done the same.
Obviously, the law by itself will not change prevalent norms about gender roles in every way. But it will definitely raise awareness about an issue that many, unfortunately, are oblivious to.
Eyes slowly opening
However, gender identity and sexual orientation are two different matters. People born with a mixture of male and female chromosomes do not necessarily have anything to do with the love of people of the same sex, or with certain sexual practices enjoyed by heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.
And this year,