1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Germany's intersex verdict: 'Every person has a gender'

November 8, 2017

DW spoke with Lucie Veith, one of the many individuals affected by the Germany's ruling on a third gender option. While applauding the overdue verdict, the intersex activist questioned whether labels are even necessary.

A toilet logo shows half a man and half a woman
Image: imago

DW: Lucie Veith, the German Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe has just changed your status from that of a sexless person to a person of "diverse" gender. Cause to celebrate?

Lucie Veith: Yes, because the old formulation had always been strange. Every person has a gender, and a way of identifying themselves. The fact that this had previously not been reflected in the law was a scandal. So in that sense, the verdict is a big step in terms of human rights, because now there will have to be very clear regulations. Still, it's sad that it has taken so long, and that it had to go all the way to the Federal Constitutional Court.

Read more: Intersex people put gender binary on trial in Karlsruhe

The court ruled that current regulations discriminate against intersex people, saying that sexual identity is key in how people perceive themselves and are perceived by others. How do the current regulations — under which people can be registered male, female, or choose a third option — impact the lives of intersex people?

Intersex people are often assigned to a gender, namely male or female, even thoughtheir bodies don't strictly conform to either norm. Since 2013, these people have been able to apply for a correction to their registered sex, but that has left them without a formal gender identity. And yet, everybody has a gender, and every person should be able to have that recognized. If I'm not male or female, then I'm something else. And that something else needs to be incorporated into our legal framework.

Which name for a third gender option would you most like to see be approved? Intersex? Diverse?

That will now be up for negotiation. Personally, I think that we need to consider whether we even need these categories. Doesn't everyone know what they are? Do we really need these labels? But that's a discussion for society as a whole.

A poster showing male, female and a third gender option
A poster shows a cross mark over a third gender choice and reads, 'For a third option'Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Woitas

Do you see Germany as being at the forefront of this issue, or are other countries more progressive?

Other countries are further along — countries such as Nepal or Argentina. There, for example, people just have to sign an affidavit as to their gender identity, and then it's official.

What other political changes for intersex people should German politics strive for?

Lucie Veith
Lucie Veith advocates for the rights of intersexual peopleImage: Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte

There needs to be a regulation to protect intersex children from genital mutilation. It's something that often gets forgotten, but 95 percent of all intersex people are either subjected to genital mutilation, or their development is subject to manipulation, all so that society can continue to believe that there are only two genders. This is, of course, ridiculous. Nature is much more diverse than that.

Before our interview, I researched the best way to address you. What is your recommendation?

My name is Lucie Veith. You can just ask me, and that's what I'd do when talking to any other person. I don't need any allocation to the male or the female. If you are one of the privileged people who see themselves as male or female, then congratulations. I'm not part of that group. But I'm a human being with the same rights as you.

Lucie Veith is an activist with the non-profit organization "Intersexuelle Menschen" (Intersex People).

A model breaking a taboo

Peter Hille Bonn 0051
Peter Hille Peter Hille is a multimedia reporter with a strong background in African affairs@peterhille