Congratulations, You Have A Beautiful Bouncing Blank: Germany Adds Indeterminate Option To Birth Certificates

220px-Being_a_twin_means_you_always_have_a_pillow_or_blanket_handyGermany is moving to a new birth certificate that could put pressure on the EU for a broader change among its member countries. The new certificate will allow parents to select a third option other than male or female. If the parents do not wish to leave gender up to their child, they can select “indeterminate” or “blank” for the gender. The new form is the result of a campaign to combat discrimination over gender changes.


Starting November 1st, German parents will be allowed to opt out of determining their baby’s gender. The law will allow those born with characteristics of both sexes to choose whether to become male or female in later life. However, many are arguing that the law should allow parents to opt out of the gender selection entirely.

There is also a move to allow people to use “X” rather than “F” for female and “M” for male on passports and government documents.

We have been following the decisions of an increasing number of young children to raise them as the opposite gender because they perceive a preference. Given the young age of some of these children, I have major qualms over such cases. As the father of four, I simply cannot believe that such a preference is so pronounced at 5 or 6 to justify a wholesale shift to another gender. Other cases include parents who insist on raising their children without a gender as with the Swedish family.

I have different concerns over the German birth certificate. These forms are meant for identification purposes and refer to the physical body of the child at birth. I have always strongly supported the rights of adults seeking gender changes, particularly in combatting discriminatory practices. However, the birth certificate records the gender at birth. It does not require that this individual remain that gender. For the vast majority of children, their physical gender will remain their chosen gender. I can certainly understand if a baby is one of a small percentage of births with both male and female organs. However, this law goes beyond such cases to allow parents to opt out of gender identification in order to leave it up to the child.

I confess that I am worried about telling kids that they will have to decide what gender they are as they are growing up. That is a lot to add to an already difficult development from toddler to child to teen to adult. There are differences produced by gender and it is often difficult to transition to a new gender both mentally and physically. I do not see the problem in assuming that a child’s gender will remain their gender for life, as is the case in the vast majority of people. Raising genderless kids like the case in Sweden or refusing to identify a child as a particular gender may have more to do with the parents than the kid. I may be simply someone stuck in the dark ages and I am willing to listen to the arguments on the other side. I certainly understand the legal and political issues surrounding such questions, but I fail to see how this is in the best interest of the child as a general matter.

What do you think?

Source: Spiegel

18 thoughts on “Congratulations, You Have A Beautiful Bouncing Blank: Germany Adds Indeterminate Option To Birth Certificates”

  1. I think its a good thing. Ive heard many stories of parents getting it wrong and the kids growing up confused and isolated as a result. Let them become who they want to be.

  2. VV,

    You’re welcome. In truth, I didn’t have to search far. I have both songs bookmarked. As for seeing me around, although I’ve been on hiatus, I’m one of the guest bloggers. Chances are you’ll see me around.

    Welcome aboard.

  3. Gene,

    These were awesome. I really enjoyed watching & listening to them. Even more awesome was your finding them and posting them just for me. I’m really touched by your thoughtfulness!

    Hope to see you around Professor Turley’s blog often!

    Sincerely,
    Vestal Virgin

  4. Perhaps this will be posted, perhaps not; I am writing this to learn about that. I am transgendered and autistic, and am a Wisconsin Registered Professional Engineer (No. 34106-6) having B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

    In the fall of 2011, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH, formerly the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association) stopped deeming gender to be a binary phenomenon, and the multi-dimensional spectrum of human biological gender diversity became tenable for the gender diversity portion of humanity from the WPATH view.

    For those who do not yet have a viable awareness of the actual nature of human gender diversity, Kim Elizabeth Stuart wrote a book, “The Uninvited Dilemma: A Question of Gender,” Metamorphous Press, 1983, with a second edition in 1991. While Metamorphosis Press apparently ceased operation circa 2002, copies can sometimes be found on bookfinder.com, and an ebook of the Second Edition that may be read using Adobe Digital Editions ebook reader is available for borrowing at no cost through openlibrary.org.

    I first recognized that I am transgendered in infancy, as I observed the behaviors of boys and girls and of women and men. Many of the typical behaviors of boys and men were of anathema to me, some were not. Many of the typical behaviors of girls and women were compatible with me, some were not. I have never fit into any sort of binary gender scheme, not even in infancy.

    Came the first day of kindergarten, the late summer of 1944, my mother walked with me to Columbia School, in Seattle, Washington. When we got to the door of the kindergarten room, the teacher greeted me and suggested that I go to the far end of the room, to play with the toys there. On the right (west) side of the room were toys I liked, on the left (east) side, toys that I disliked, I went to play with the toys I liked, only to notice the teacher hurrying toward me. When she got close enough, she said to me, “No, Brian, those toys are for the girls.”

    In December of 1952, my family lived in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, in the Hope Congregational Church parsonage. One Sunday, after supper, we went to the living room to listen to the Jack Benny radio program on our Philco console radio. The program began with the usual sort of joke as told by Don Wilson, that day about taking a trip to Europe, going to London, where a man was a man, to Paris, where a woman was a woman, and to Copenhagen, where a man was a woman. Christine Jorgensen.

    As I had sensed a need to go to “the bathroom,” upstairs in that parsonage, during supper, I excused myself, went upstairs, did my bathroom duty, and then went into my bedroom, which was directly above the living room, and where I could easily hear the living room radio. Lying down on my bed, I cried, cried, and wept. For joy at the recognition that I was not the only person whose social gender assignment was not actually appropriate for me.

    I was clearly “different” as I understood other people thought of me, autistic in what is now regarded as the classical sense (much as initially described by Dr. Leo Kanner), and transgendered though not in the sense of being only male or, in a dichotomy sense, only female. While I evidently have one X and one Y chromosome, and so am, in chromosomal terms, male, my brain is as though far more female than male.

    In the early 1990s, I was a member of the Chicago Gender Society. During one meeting, a friend I had made there asked me why I did not cross-dress. I replied, “What makes you think I am not cross-dressed now?” I was dressed, as I consistently am, in attire characteristic of adult males.

    My driver’s license has my genotype stated, correctly, as “M” and does not correctly state my phenotype, which is “M or F” with the word, “or” being the inclusive “or” of formal logic.

    I was visiting some folks some years ago, for dinner. Toward the end of dinner, the host asked me if I would prefer coffee or tea. I answered, “Yes.”

    The host gave me a cup of about half tea and half coffee, and I said, “Thanks.”

    Given that the Second Edition of Stuart’s “The Uninvited Dilemma,” as an Adobe Digital Editions e-book is readily borrowed through openlibrary.org, I cannot imagine any valid reason for people who read the Turley blog and are now seriously ignorant of the actual nature of human biological gender diversity to remain so.

    Perhaps there is a simple way to account for why many, if not almost all, of my postings to the Turley blog tend to be ignored or perhaps stir aspects of displeasure. My work as a Professional Engineer doing bioengineering is focused on biological pattern recognition, which I understand contains the field of biosemiotics as a proper subset.

    The last time I checked, the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies had something in the range of 100 members, worldwide. I am one such.
    Perhaps the following web site would be informative:

    www(dot)biosemiotics(dot)org/definitions(dot)html

    Within the realm of biological pattern recognition, and, methinks, within the realm of biosemiotics, I observe that it is practicable, and plausibly accurate, to model the Adversarial System as a metaphor of illness, much in accord with the manner told in Susan Sontag’s book, “Illness as Metaphor” (I have the First Vintage Books June, 1979), edition).

    There were hints of the field of AI (“Artificial Intelligence”) (meaning, cybernetics and such) when I was in high school. Back then, as an autistic person, it had come to me to ponder whether AI was really more about “Adamant ignorance and Intransigent stupidity” than anything else. I have come to reject that childhood foolishness, cynically sarcastic as it was, as the silliness of one not then well enough informed regarding biology.

    Please consider considering the following book excerpt (and, if you can, please buy and read the whole book):

    We conclude that organic information is a new type of natural entity, but we also conclude that it belongs to the same class of objective entities that contains all physical quantities. Therefore, it has the same scientific “status” as a physical quantity. This, however, raises a new problem because there are two distinct classes of physical quantities: a small group of fundamental quantities (space, time, mass, charge, and temperature) and a much larger group of derived quantities. That distinction applies to all objective entities, so we need to understand whether organic information belongs to the first or to the second group.
    Luckily, this problem has a straightforward solution because the sequences of genes and proteins have two very special characteristics. One is that a change in a single component of a biological sequence may produce a sequence which has entirely new properties. This means that although a biological sequence can be said to have “components”, it is at the same time a single indivisible whole. The second outstanding feature is that from the knowledge of n elements of a biological sequence we cannot predict the element (n + 1). This is equivalent to saying that a specific sequence cannot be described by anything simpler than itself, so it cannot be a derived entity.
    We conclude that organic information has the same scientific status as the physical quantities because it is an objective and reproducible entity. But we also conclude that it does not have the status of a derived physical quantity because it cannot be expressed by anything simpler than itself. This means that organic information has the same scientific status as the fundamental physical quantities, i.e., that it is a fundamental (or irreducible) entity of Nature (a similar conclusion was also described in Küppers 1990 and 1992).

    Favareau, Donald (2010-06-10). Essential Readings in Biosemiotics: Anthology and Commentary (pp. 767-768). Springer Netherlands. Kindle Edition.

  5. Dana,

    Transgender people don’t transition for the clothes. They transition because their bodies don’t match their minds. I would guess that if they do wear clothing that’s more gendered, it’s probably just a little bit of overcompensation, which would certainly be understandable for someone who was born in the wrong body. Classic majority-minority stereotyping also comes into play here. When a trans women wears lip gloss, everyone notices (i.e., “Look. The trans woman is *trying* to be feminine. What, does it think there’s something innately female about lip gloss?”) When a natal woman wears lip gloss, no one chalks it up as “another natal woman engaging in gender stereotypes”. It’s just a natal woman wearing lip gloss.

    Transgender people don’t “pigeonhole” people into categories. This is itself also a stereotype. There are all kinds of transgender people. One is homosexual. One is heterosexual. One is a nurse. Another is an engineer. One wears make up. Another does not. One has a beard. Another does not. Some are nice. Some are mean. Some are devout Christians. Some are atheists. Some are Democrats. Some are Republicans. And so on. Transgender people come in the same range of personality types and diversity that nontransgender people come in. Why wouldn’t they?

    Also, to be honest, I found your idea of classifying AIS women as male on their birth certificates to be a little disturbing. DNA fundamentalism or chromosome fundamentalism, like other fundamentalisms, misses the less accessible truth. Which here is the complexity of interacting factors that cause someone to become male or female. Complete AIS women have (1) external female genitalia; (2) a vag ina usually functional for sexual intercourse; and, as it is reported, almost invariably (3) a female gender identity. If having a vagina and external female genitalia don’t count for being female, what does? Classifying them as male on their birth certificates would seem to be both inaccurate and cruel.

    For the record, I’m a trans woman and I don’t like wearing dresses. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just don’t like it myself. I like wearing jeans, like when I was a guy. Except now I wear women’s jeans.

    Vestal Virgin

  6. Sorry, Berliner. Ihre nahezu identisch Kommentare haben beide im Filter gefangen. Ich genehmigte ein. 😀

  7. They went off the rails with that one and I will agree with the blogger-this is more about the parents-and I will say the parents agenda. I don’t respect a law that allows a parent to do this to a child. Parents can influence children no matter what, but this law gives a weird kind of permission to parents who are trying to prove something with their child-like the ones naming them adolf hitler or foisting intersex bathrooms on kindergarten classes.

  8. I can certainly understand if a baby is one of a small percentage of births with both male and female organs. However, this law goes beyond such cases to allow parents to opt out of gender identification in order to leave it up to the child.

    If you read the law itself, and not the ‘interpretations’ of reporters, if becomes quite clear that there is no ‘opting out.’
    If the gender of the child can not be determined, the birth will be registered without a gender.

    (Personenstandsgesetz article 22 second paragraph: “Kann das Kind weder dem weiblichen noch dem männlichen Geschlecht zugeordnet werden, so ist der Personenstandsfall ohne eine solche Angabe in das Geburtenregister einzutragen.”)

  9. Gender and physical sex are two different things. I think in the case of intersexed kids, they’re being blood-tested for genetic disorders anyway at birth–can’t we do a chromosome layout as well and determine whether they’re XX or XY, and just put that down on the certificate? They can still decide later whether they want to have surgery to conform to one appearance or the other.

    (Assuming, of course, that the child doesn’t have something like androgen insufficiency syndrome which would make their body look completely female even though they have XY chromosomes. But part of me thinks we ought to list them as male, because the birth certificate is supposed to be about biological facts at birth, and they’ll never be able to bear children anyway.)

    I think people are way off the beam on transgender, too. If you’re an XY and you want to wear dresses, that doesn’t make you female. Being seen as female gender in society is completely different from having XX chromosomes. One is culturally determined and the other is biological. The transgender movement claims it is trying to move beyond gender but all it does, from where I am sitting, is pigeonhole people into society’s made-up categories.

    BE the guy who wears a dress. Society needs to learn to be more tolerant of that. I am totally OK with it. I mean how long have women been wearing pants now?

  10. This is so stupid it’s actually hilarious…almost as good as the NAS not spying on Americans

  11. OH, this is a direct result of having Die, Das, und Der in the language! As Mark Twain pointed out in, The Awful German Language, and <Tale of The Fishwife and Its Sad Fate:

    Every noun has a gender, and there is no sense or system in the distribution; so the gender of each must be learned separately and by heart. There is no other way. To do this one has to have a memory like a memorandum-book. In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has. Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous disrespect for the girl. See how it looks in print — I translate this from a conversation in one of the best of the German Sunday-school books:

    “Gretchen.
    Wilhelm, where is the turnip?
    Wilhelm.
    She has gone to the kitchen.
    Gretchen.
    Where is the accomplished and beautiful English maiden?
    Wilhelm.
    It has gone to the opera.”

    To continue with the German genders: a tree is male, its buds are female, its leaves are neuter; horses are sexless, dogs are male, cats are female — tomcats included, of course; a person’s mouth, neck, bosom, elbows, fingers, nails, feet, and body are of the male sex, and his head is male or neuter according to the word selected to signify it, and not according to the sex of the individual who wears it — for in Germany all the women either male heads or sexless ones; a person’s nose, lips, shoulders, breast, hands, and toes are of the female sex; and his hair, ears, eyes, chin, legs, knees, heart, and conscience haven’t any sex at all. The inventor of the language probably got what he knew about a conscience from hearsay.

    There is more fun and games at this link:

    http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/linghebr/awfgrmlg.html#x2

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  12. The law will allow those born with characteristics of both sexes to choose whether to become male or female in later life … What do you think?

    As if people don’t already have enough things to worry about.

    Something to add to the debate about whether it is “a choice” or not perhaps?

    There I’ve gone and done it.

    In Squeeky Fromm Girl Reporter’s case, changing the name would be a better choice.

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