RSS

The Bulletin

Germany not sure if you're a boy or a girl

Posting in Energy

Male, female, or other? German birth certificates will offer a third option. Above, Marilyn Monroe's parents chose the fairer of the two sexes. They presumably had little doubt. She would prove them correct.

--

In his hit 1974 single Rebel Rebel, David Bowie sang, "You've got your mother in a whirl. She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl."

Nearly 40 years later, replace "mother" with "Germany," get rid of the whirl, and welcome to the world's latest legal gender bender: The German legislature has decided that parents no longer have to categorize their newborns as "male" or "female."

Instead, they can "leave the gender form on the child's birth certificate completely blank if it is born with unusual physical characteristics making it impossible to determine the gender," the Russian website RT reported.

"The new law will apply to intersexuals, also known as hermaphrodites, rather than transsexuals," RT wrote. "Hermaphrodites are people in possession of both female and male physical characteristics."

The U.K.'s The Independent further explained that:

The option of “gender: ‘blank’” is to be introduced throughout Germany from November in an attempt to enable children born with characteristics of both sexes to decide whether they want to be considered male or female in later life. The new law also stipulates that individuals can opt to remain of indeterminate gender for their whole lives.

Germany's measure follows similar action in Australia, which six months ago became the first country in the world to allow a third gender option, The Independent noted.

Here at SmartPlanet, we try to give you a business or technology tie-in to our stories about progressive developments. I'm struggling to think of one that's not too glib and that doesn't undermine the admirable message of social equality conveyed by Germany's action.

Having said that, and confessing in advance to glibness: Hermaphrodites of the world, rejoice! But beware. It won't be long until spam marketeers start trawling records and barraging "indeterminate gender" people with unwanted emails offering hermaphrodite-targeted products and services.

Or maybe that's a good thing - there's plenty of community building potential in the data collection process as well.

Image of Marilyn Monroe's birth certificate from Wikimedia

More gender bending and Bowie:

— By on August 20, 2013, 4:22 AM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure