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X for indeterminate, unspecified or intersex

Commentary: Trans Progressive

Should there be a third gender category birth certificate gender assignment? The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is considering just that after its Law Reform Advisory Council advised the government in Canberra that gender options for birth certificates and other identity documents should include the options female, male, intersex, to be advised or indeterminate.

In 2010, the U.S. State Department implemented a policy that made it possible to permanently change one’s passport gender marker without surgical intervention. The choices for gender on a U.S. passport however, are binary – the two gender marker choices are male and female.

The Australian Passport Office adopted a similar policy to the U.S. policy in 2011, and like the U.S. policy on passport gender markers those who identify themselves as a gender different than the one assigned to them at birth are able to choose their preferred gender for their passport – so long as it is supported by a statement from a doctor.

Beyond that however, the Australian government provided a third option. They also provided the option of X for “indeterminate, unspecified or intersex.” According to the Australian Passport Office, a “letter from a medical practitioner certifying that the person has had, or is receiving, appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition to a new gender, or that they are intersex and do not identify with the sex assigned to them at birth, is acceptable” to change one’s gender marker to M, F or X.

California and one other U.S. state have adopted the U.S. State Department standards for determining legal gender for state identity documents, to include birth certificates.

In a similar manner, The ACT is contemplating adopting their Australian Passport Office standards for changing their territory identity documents, to include birth certificates. And, ACT is considering it because of that Law Reform Advisory Council report entitled Beyond the Binary: Legal Recognition of Sex and Gender Diversity in the ACT.

That report, if fully implemented by ACT, would go far beyond just modifying existing birth certificates, but impact how gender is determined for children born in the here and now.

Summary recommendations in the report include changing their Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1997 (BDMRA) and Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Regulation 1998 (BDMRR). From the report:

“… to give legal recognition to sex and gender diverse people who are not defined by the female/male binary, wherever the BDMRA and BDMRR refer to two sexes, male and female, they should be amended to recognize three sex and gender identities: female, male and intersex.

The report continues:

“… the sex of a child when it is notified (s5 BDMRA; s4 (1) BDMRR) should be any of female, male, intersex, to be advised or indeterminate.”

In our California reality where Prop. 8 became enshrined in our state constitution – a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman – one could only imagine the monkey wrench that an officially recognized third gender marker X would throw into the legal wrangling over marriage equality.

If only our laws in California not only recognized marriage equality because it’s an equal application of the established fundamental right to marry, but because all of us don’t fit into a gender binary of male and female.

I, for one, would like to see California embrace the concept behind the Australian gender identifier of X.

Progressive politics should be forward thinking by recognizing only the gender binary of M and F are “flawed and contrary to basic biological realities.”

Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=34520

Posted by on Feb 28, 2013. Filed under Trans Progressive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

8 Comments for “X for indeterminate, unspecified or intersex”

  1. The phrase “flawed and contrary to basic biological realities” used in the last paragraph of this commentary comes from an Los Angeles Times‘ commentary by Eric Vilain, the chief of medical genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. His 2004 commentary, where he was arguing against constitutional amendments that limited marriage to one man and one woman, was entitled Gender Blender Intersexual? Transsexual? Male, female aren’t so easy to define.

    The paragraph of the Vilain commentary from where the phrase “flawed and contrary to basic biological realities” came from reads this way:

    Sex should be easily definable, but it’s not. Our gender identity — our profound sense of being male or female — is independent from our anatomy. A constitutional amendment authorizing marriages only between men and women would not only discriminate against millions of Americans who do not fit easily in the mold of each category, but would simply be flawed and contrary to basic biological realities.

    • A Woman, Period

      Actually, it is relatively simple. If you have a penis, you are a male. If you don’t, you are not. There really is no such thing as a true human hermaphrodite, i.e. someone with both complete female and male genitalia. There are cases where there is imperfect differentiation of the sex organs, and in such cases actual core gender identity should prevail.

      That said, I personally favor allowing same sex marriages as a matter of law, I do believe, however, that religions also have a right to decide what they will, and will not, recognize as a valid marriage as, for example, currently exists with regards to divorce in the Roman Catholic faith. So in that regard the issue of biological sex with regards to legal marriage is basically moot. But I also happen to strongly favor binary gender. I think the attempts by some to undermine that are also wrong. Birth certificates, for example, should reflect actual sex, not what someone claims they are based on “feelings.”

      • Actually, it’s not as simple as you’re describing it.

        The Intersex Society of North America (INSA) has stated this regarding intersex conditions:

        [N]ature presents us with sex anatomy spectrums. Breasts, penises, clitorises, scrotums, labia, gonads — all of these vary in size and shape and morphology. So-called “sex” chromosomes can vary quite a bit, too. But in human cultures, sex categories get simplified into male, female, and sometimes intersex, in order to simplify social interactions, express what we know and feel, and maintain order.

        …[N]ature doesn’t decide where the category of “male” ends and the category of “intersex” begins, or where the category of “intersex” ends and the category of “female” begins. Humans decide. Humans (today, typically doctors) decide how small a penis has to be, or how unusual a combination of parts has to be, before it counts as intersex. Humans decide whether a person with XXY chromosomes or XY chromosomes and androgen insensitivity will count as intersex.

        If a prominent geneticist like Eric Vilain — the chief of medical genetics at very prominent university at a very prominent medical department — states that millions of Americans don’t easily fit in the categories of male and female, and that the INSA functionally agrees that sorting people by a binary system of male and female “would simply be flawed and contrary to basic biological realities,” your contrary point of view as a lay person doesn’t seem to be a credible point of view that should be blindly embraced. Essentially, your penis/no penis binary division isn’t a viable division if the medical community can’t uniformly decide where a large clitoris ends and a small penis begins.

        Eric Vilain said in that same Los Angeles Times commentary I cited previously stated:

        Identifying the gender of intersex and transsexual individuals poses an even more complex challenge. Intersexuality is defined as the presence of “ambiguous genitalia,” making it impossible to tell easily whether the newborn baby is a boy or a girl. It occurs at a frequency of 1 in 4,000 births. Plastic surgery of the genitals is often performed to conform a typical appearance of one sex or the other, and a male or female legal sex is assigned shortly after birth. Many of these children grow up feeling alienated from their legal sex identity and undergo reconstructive surgery as adults to regain their dominant gender identity. If intersex adults change their legal sex, which sex should be considered when they marry?

        Sex is not easily defined, per expert geneticist Eric Vilain and the INSA, and now the Australian Passport Office agrees. ACT is considering embracing gender diversity with an X as public policy regarding birth certificates using the standards of the Australian Passport Office.

        I’m always going to hope that America, and especially California, embraces the most progressive views on gender, and Australia seems to be on the leading edge of accepting gender diversity. I believe America and its states could learn a lot from the Australian point of view on this matter.

        • A Woman, Period

          A classic example of the sort of scientific fiction one gets when politics and social construction gets mixed in with radical dogma. In the rare cases where it is not clear, the simple answer is to wait and see how the child behaves. Pressure should not be put on the child to go one way, or the other. By the age of one to one and a half, the child’s gender will begin to become clearer. Then just go with the flow as they say. The simple fact is, children don’t look between their legs and say “Hmmm, I have a penis, so I must be a boy…or whoops, no penis, I guess I’m a girl.”

          Those so-called “progressive views on gender” are neither progressive, nor really views on gender. They are a rebellion against the natural order. It is one thing for a person to be born with a brain that is sexually differentiated at odds with their body, and then to lead a miserable life until they are able to correct it. It is another for someone to have lived happily as a male, albeit perhaps enjoying a bit of crossdressing on the side, and then after a successful career as a male, suddenly decide later in life “Gee, I think I would rather be a girl…” (Funny how they often prefer “girl,” to a more mature term.) Of course, they often don’t really want to give up completely on their maleness. They are really just taking their crossdressing a bit further.

          Sorry, but I, and many others, will fight to prevent such a tearing down of societal norms. What America could learn from Australia is what not to do…

          The children I really feel sorry for are those who have parents who are dead set on forcing their children towards a “neutral” gender. I know how much I suffered from attempts to force me into being what I was not. I really shudder at kids being forced into something that is completely contrary to human nature. And that is exactly the sort of silliness that Australia is pushing with this “X” silliness. People are not, naturally, indeterminate. Some choose to play at being such in order to mess with societal norms, but anyone with a shred of common sense, who spends more than five minutes dealing with such a person, quickly realizes that it is all a bit of absurdist theater.

          • ” The simple fact is, children don’t look between their legs and say “Hmmm, I have a penis, so I must be a boy…or whoops, no penis, I guess I’m a girl.” ”

            This is true. This is why you are wrong about absolutely everything else. This is just as true of non-intersex kids, and it is just as true of kids who do not have a binary gender.

            Some people are naturally indeterminate. For some reason you think gonads can be indeterminate but brains must be binary, despite being a far more complex organ.

  2. Short answer:


    Longer answer:

    Hell NO!

  3. Such a provision just gives those with their victim mentality something else to feel victimized over after their self-imposed exile to “Other Island.” Why someone would deliberately want to other themselves is beyond me…other than it continues the extension of their narcissistic ‘look at me, look at me- I’m a speshul snowflake’ games.

    One of these days, people wanting to change ‘gender’ will realize that sex-based markers HAVE a legitimate place. And the fact that they have an “F” while still packing peen is NOT going to keep them from having a very unpleasant experience someplace, sometime, somewhere.

  4. I am intersex with ambiguous genitalia. My mom did not pressure or force one gender or another. My birth certificate marker is female. Actually my mom was never told I was intersex. My androgynous behavior since childhood was left alone. I was treated as me..an individual. I grew up being just me.i felt different not really girl or boy but a mix. I became bisexual and changed my roles constantly sexually to be a better lover for both sexes. I found out I was intersex when estrogen made me sick in my 30’s. I actually need testosterone for normal function . But now because of this I am forced to transition male. Why can’t I be both and get an x gender. I don’t feel fully one or the other, I’m just me. I have no legal rights because biologically I am neither a true female or male.so where does marriage and other rights play in this. I tell people I am intersex and this does not stop men and women from wanting to date or have relationship with me. Uggg USA laws needs rights for all types of gender..I can’t change what I was born as..so why does others try to change what I was born naturally by pushing a gender.

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