Ethics Council calls for the introduction of the third gender

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Third gender for intersexuals required by the German Ethics Council

Dealing with intersexuality, i.e. people who have gender characteristics of men and women, is a difficult subject not only for those affected but also for society. Now the German Ethics Council has issued a statement in favor of the introduction of a "third gender".

Those affected by intersexuality should be given the opportunity to register in the civil status register "in addition to the entry as Female or male"To choose the gender" other ", said the German Ethics Council. In this way, people who are described as intersex are no longer forced to commit themselves to a certain gender. In the opinion of the expert panel, the previous handling of those affected is ethically unjustifiable. Especially since numerous intersexuals have experienced considerable “pain” and “personal suffering” in the past, as doctors tried to achieve a clear gender definition through surgery and hormone treatments.

Ethics Council opinion on intersexuality
On behalf of the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the German Ethics Council has developed recommendations for dealing with the issue of intersexuality. The panel of experts explicitly addressed people who have genital organs of men and women from birth. Transsexuals who changed their gender through artificial intervention or people who, despite their clear biological gender characteristics, suffer from the feeling that they are in the wrong body were not part of the working group. In its definition of intersexuality, the Ethics Council determined that these were people who “cannot be clearly classified as male or female due to physical peculiarities.” Therefore, the determination of a certain gender should no longer be prescribed to those affected, but should be it is possible to indicate the gender "other" in the corresponding documents.

People with male and female gender characteristics
This newly introduced gender status is intended to do justice to the fact that the gender characteristics of men and women develop in some people. For example, despite a male chromosome set, some people do not have testes, but rather female genital organs. There are also signs of ovaries and testicles at the same time. The most common form of intersex is adrenogenital syndrome (AGS), which, according to the Ethics Council, occurs in an estimated one in 10,000 births. Those affected have a female chromosome set, have fully functional female genital organs (are therefore also reproductive), but at the same time show gender characteristics of men. The clitoris can also develop into the size of a penis. According to the experts of the Ethics Council, the number of people actually affected in Germany has so far been unclear. As part of the current work on the subject, 199 intersexuals took part in a survey and a few hundred were also involved in previous studies, according to the Ethics Council in its opinion.

Public discussion about intersexual gold medalist
So far, however, the public has only been marginally aware of the issue of intersexuality and the problems of those affected. Only when the South African Caster Semenya won the gold medal for women over 800 meters at the 2009 World Athletics Championships in Berlin and then the discussion about the gender of the runner broke out, did intersexuality become the focus of public interest for a short time. Caster Semenya had to have a gender test due to doubts after her victory, but the results were kept secret to protect the gold medalist's personal rights. It quickly became clear that Caster Semenya is both a woman and a man. But after some time in the media, the topic was forgotten again.

Rethink required when dealing with intersexuality
However, the opinion of the Ethics Council is once again putting the phenomenon of intersexuality in the public eye. The demand for a “third gender” is causing a sensation. The primary aim is to enable those affected to lead a self-determined life without putting them in a drawer from official channels into which they do not fit. The difficult fates that happened to intersexuals, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s, show that rethinking is urgently needed. According to the Ethics Council, many of them were seriously injured during surgery as a result of medical doctors trying to achieve a clear gender definition for adulthood.

Intersexuals used to be victims of physical assault
As evidence of the sometimes unbelievable events, the Ethics Council has included two anonymized reports from intersex people in its opinion, in which the victims describe what physical and mental suffering they have been inflicted on. One person received hormone treatments from childhood and her sex was strictly surgically determined on female genital organs, which resulted in decades of suffering. In the other report, the affected person described that the testicles, which were not clearly pronounced, were removed at the age of two and a half without medical need. This “castration was carried out without my parents' consent and should subsequently be kept secret,” the report said. It is unbelievable that doctors decide such interventions on their own - without consulting their parents. In the 1960s and 1970s, the mentality among doctors and psychiatrists was even more strongly shaped by the idea that the gender of a person can be influenced by society. In other words: If nature does not make a clear determination, the doctors take on this job with their surgical and hormonal intervention options. It has often been forgotten in the wake of the delusion of feasibility among medical professionals and psychiatrists that those affected have been irreversibly impaired in their sexuality by this act of medical assault.

Right to self-determination
Numerous intersexuals have “suffered pain, personal suffering, complications and permanent restrictions on their quality of life,” explains the Ethics Council in its statement. The panel of experts therefore called for state support for those affected. "A fund should be set up to give those affected recognition and help," said the Ethics Council. In addition, the Ethics Council believes that the criminal and civil statute of limitations for such bodily harm should be extended. In general, “irreversible medical measures for gender assignment” are only justifiable in childhood in a few exceptional cases. Because people who do not belong biologically to either sex have the right to self-determination. According to the Ethics Council, the exceptions include, for example, the phenomenon of AGS. Because here the gender is biologically clear and only not clearly defined. An "alignment of the genitals with the sex" could therefore make sense, but "only after extensive consideration of the medical, psychological and psychosocial advantages and disadvantages." According to the Ethics Council opinion, not all medical interventions in childhood intersexuality can be rejected.

Marriage or civil partnership for intersexuals?
The Ethics Council believes that the right to self-determination must be preserved as far as possible. Accordingly, those affected should be able to make their own decisions from puberty. The opinion of the Ethics Council therefore provides for a right to gender self-determination of intersex people from the age of twelve. Analogous to the age of religious consent, those affected should be allowed to have a say in their gender classification from this age, the German Ethics Council demanded. However, the respective level of intellectual development of those affected should also be taken into account. The 26 experts of the Ethics Council agreed on most of their comments, but two opinions were expressed on the question of how to deal with marriages and civil partnerships, which provide for a gender-unambiguous definition from the government. A marriage can only be concluded between a man and a woman, a civil partnership between a woman and a woman or a man and a man. A minority of the Ethics Council members advocated that the partnership between a person of the gender "other" and a woman or a man be allowed as a marriage. The majority of the Ethics Council members, however, spoke in favor of “people with gender entry other to enable the registered civil partnership "- no marriage.

Society needs more tolerance
Regardless of the status under which their later partnerships run, a lot will already be gained for those affected if they are not necessarily assigned to the female or male gender and they can determine their sexual identity in the future. The public discussion also increases the sensitivity of the subject to intersexuality among the parents of those affected and the attending doctors, so that intersexuals may be spared serious medical interventions in their childhood in the future. But dealing with the phenomenon in society remains difficult. Since those affected are at risk of malice and ridicule, most keep their intersexuality secret. A public position on the gender “other” is also out of the question for her. There is also a lack of tolerance by others. Whether the public opinion of the Ethics Council can make a difference here remains open. (fp)

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