Germany Offers Third Gender Option On Birth Certificates

Germany Offers Third Gender Option On Birth Certificates

A friend of mine sent me a link to this article, knowing my interests in things like sex, gender, and Germany. The article briefly outlines a new law in Germany allowing parents to leave the “Gender” spot on birth certificates blank if they are unsure of the child’s gender, thereby labeling the child “indeterminate” which can later be changed to male, female, or intersex. The article asserts that “the necessity of being entered in the registry as ‘female’ or ‘male’ as being an unwarranted intrusion upon personal rights and the right to equal treatment.” I also learned here that while this is the first such law in a European country, Australia, India, and Pakistan have similar laws regarding gender identification on government documents.
This article, as you may notice, is written in English. This is interesting to me as someone who studies German and linguistics, as the translation must have been a nightmare – both “gender” and “sex” translate into German as the same word: das Geschlecht. The two concepts are generally differentiated by the adjectives “biological” and “social.” These words don’t appear in the English version of the article; the word “gender” is used regardless of whether “sex” or “gender” was meant.
German is also interesting in that, like many other languages, its nouns have genders; unlike many other languages, those genders are feminine, masculine, and neuter. It’s amazing what nouns are which gender – for instance, the word for “man” is masculine, “woman” is feminine, “boy” is masculine, and “girl” is neuter. No, really. This opens up a whole new world of problematic implications, in which nouns that are tangible and concrete (items, things) are generally masculine, whereas intangible nouns (emotions, concepts) are generally feminine.
Maybe I’m just a huge language nerd (definitely), but I can’t help but wonder – how did this happen? How are words inherently gendered? And what does this new law mean for the global intersex community?

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