The latest German legislation concerning hermaphrodites, also referred to as intersex, third gender or more recently as gender X, has aroused controversy in France and in the United States.
According to this latest legislation by the German parliament instead of the rigid M (male) or F (female), a third gender designation__ X, is allowed for newborns with ambiguous genitalia. According to a report filed by the European Commission in 2011 intersex people are:
“differ[ent] from trans [sexual or gender] people, as their status is not gender related but instead relates to their biological makeup (genetic, hormonal and physical features), which is neither exclusively male nor exclusively female, but is typical of both at once or not clearly defined as either. These features can manifest themselves in secondary sexual characteristics, such as muscle mass, hair distribution, breasts and stature; primary sexual characteristics such as reproductive organs and genitalia; or in chromosomal structures and hormones.”
Research shows that one out of 2,000 newborns worldwide are born with this medical anomaly whereby the gender of the newborn is not determined. Presently, it is the responsibility of the parents of babies with intersex (an umbrella medical term for around 60 abnormal sexual development disorders) upon the advice of a doctor to decide the sex of these newborns, surgically.
This new law, however, relieves the parents to make this difficult decision and it is left to the discretion of the individuals suffering from such a sexual disorder to decide for themselves, which sex they are more comfortable with and want to adopt for the rest of their lives, when they reach the age of puberty or reason. Till that time these children are identified as X, rather than M or F in all the necessary legal documents including the birth certificates.
Before, the introduction of this law you could either be a male or a female only. This resulted in many problems, both for the parents and the intersex children, as they grew up with this medical aberration, suffering both mental and even physical anguish at the hands of their peers.
In most cultures such children are either surgically altered and their gender determined by the parents right at the time or birth or as early as is possible, to escape being ostracized by the society. While in societies where this is not possible, because of the unavailability of the requisite medical standards and know how, most of these newborns are abandoned , either left to die or given into the care of orphanages, monasteries or shrines to lead a life of deprivation and misery.
This latest piece of legislation by the German parliament is considered a good step by human right groups and organizations, because it gives identity to a class of human beings who have been the target of unwarranted social oppression, of piercing taunts and hurting innuendos for centuries; and all this for no fault on their part but because abnormal mutation of genes.
Furthermore, by accepting their identity in their midst the German people have also empowered the gender X, not to be shunned or be asamed off but to be loved as any other human deserves to be.
This law also empowers the intersex children to decide their own sex, the gender they are most comfortable with when they achieve adulthood, hence they do not have to live a life that has been imposed on them. They can opt to be a male or a female or remain just as they are, without any social restrictions placed upon them.
By accepting the existence of a intersex or third gender in the society, the social stigma attached with this medical condition is resolved to an extent, so is the taboo attached with it, though, not wholly eliminated, is lessened to a degree.
On the one hand, the parents of these children are relieved of the unnecessary anxiety and stress they have to face and on the other hand, these children also escape harassment, bias and bullying at the hands of their peers, early at schools and later at the offices, if they are lucky enough to be given a job. Most of times viewed as freaks of nature these individuals only get menial jobs, or are hired by a circus or are a fodder for the pornographic industry.
It is amazing that some poor/unsophisticated cultures are more open to accept the presence of gender X among their midst than the “so called” developed societies or cultures. In Pakistan, for instance the gender of these individuals is accepted in their ID cards issued to them by the government; they are issued passports in Nepal clearly mentioning them as members of the third gender; in India their identity is confirmed in the voters lists, and they are eligible to cast their vote as a member of the third gender community; in Australia , as well as, New Zealand their identity is also accounted for and accepted by the society.
It is an anomaly that in America (perhaps, the most advanced and sophisticated society, in the world today) there is stiff resistance against the acceptance of gender X, most surprising for a country which is, otherwise, a custodian of human rights and even animal rights, all over the world.
The outrage is especially strange when it comes from the church, as these individuals are a creation of God and thereby not to be discriminated against in any way, according to the precepts of Christianity or for that matter any other religion; rather being members of gender X, they must be treated as special persons.
By the enactment of this revolutionary law on Friday Oct. 1, 2013, Germany becomes the first European country which not only ends centuries old discrimination against the hermaphrodites but also provides them with the well deserved identity as gender X.
An Op-ed written by: Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada