According to ABC on Thursday, Germany will soon be the first European nation to legally recognize a third gender in cases where children are born with ambiguous genitalia. Newborns will no longer be rigidly assigned male or female.
The new law which will go into effect November 1 is designed to fight discrimination. Parents will now be allowed to opt out of determining their baby's gender and wait until later in life to choose male, female, or "undetermined" or "unspecified" on their certificates.
It is estimated that 1 out of every 2,000 children are born each year that are neither boy nor girl. They are considered intersex which is part of a group of about 60 different conditions that are diagnosed disorders of sexual development (DSD). Meaning they have atypical chromosomes, gonads (testes and/or ovaries), or usually developed genitalia.
Gender identification is still not well understood, but experts in the US say it is best to wait until more information is available to determine the sex or gender of the child.
Dr. Arlene Baratz, a Pittsburgh breast radiologist who has a daughter with a sexual developmental disorder and helps hundreds of others in a support group, says the German law will 'empower' both children and parents.
Baratz's daughter Katie was born with male chromosomes, but has a DSD called cAIS, complete androgen insensitivity syndrome. Even though Katie has male chromosomes, she developed female characteristics because of her cAIS.
Katie is now 29, married, and at the University of Pennsylvania, a resident in child psychiatry. She hopes to one day become a parent even though she is infertile through adoption or gestational surrogacy.
'The law gives parents some space not to have to rush into making decisions themselves,' said Baratz. 'It gives them the time to do some tests and figure it out and a period of time before they write 'male' or 'female.' This way, you are OK -- raise the child, love the child. You have a wonderful baby and enjoy the fun. We don't have to rush into surgery that is irreversible.'
'It brings the children into the decision and takes away the anxiety that motivates parents because they don't feel they are doing the right thing,' she said. 'Ultimately, the child will decide which sex he or she feels more comfortable with -- and that's a wonderful thing. It empowers children to make the decision for themselves.'
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