Thursday, October 15, 2015

Intersex Person with a Micropenis and a Rudimentary Vagina Recognised as Gender Neutral

A French court has set a European precedent by granting a 64-year-old intersex* person with a "micro-penis and a rudimentary vagina" the right to write "gender neutral" on official forms and papers.

However, the state prosecutor has appealed the decision in Tours, central France, over fears that the ruling might lead to other cases across the country demanding recognition of a "third sex".

The case was brought by an intersex person born with both male and female genitals. Referred to as "ile" - a cross between the third person “he” and “she” in French - the unnamed person has a micropenis, a vagina, no testicles and doesn't produce sexual hormones.

"My client was born with masculine and feminine genital organs, in other words a rudimentary vagina, a micro-penis and no testicles. Some 1.7 per cent of newborns have this condition, but doctors normally operate straight after birth to remove one or the other external genitalia and pronounce the person a girl or a boy." said Mila Petkova, the unnamed person’s lawyer.
"During adolescence, I understood that I wasn't a boy. I never had a beard, my muscles never really developed, but at the same time, it was impossible for me to think I'd ever become a woman. I only had to look in the mirror to realize that." said the 64-year-old to French newspaper 20 Minutes.

As of today, the 64-year-old had been referred to as Monsieur. He is also married to a woman and the couple has adopted a child . But after the August 20 ruling, which came to public this Wednesday, the court concluded that his gender was “pure fiction”.

"For 64 years I've lived with both sexes. I am proof that you can have a life without suffering a mutilating operation. I finally feel now that I have been recognized for what I am." said the 64-year-old to 20 Minutes.
"It was imposed upon him for his entire existence without him ever being able to express his deepest feelings." said Petkova.

The court ruled that by virtue of the person’s "right to private life, the birth certificate of Monsieur X, which for the past 65 years has attributed to him a masculine gender, should be rectified and now include a neutral status".

The state prosecution appealed the ruling, saying it meant de facto that France recognised a "third gender", which is not mentioned in any of its laws.

Since 2011, people born intersex can have a neutral status on their birth certificate. However, this is only temporal until a decision on the gender is made.

Petkova says that only two other countries in the world have reached similar decisions. In Australia, a person obtained a non-specific gender status, and in Nepal, a “third sex” is recognised.

As for France, transexual people, who have irreversibly changed sex, are allowed to accordingly change their gender status on forms.


Story Update 24/03//2016
Prosecutors challenged the decision and the Orleans Appeals Court on March 2016 re-designated Monsieur sex as a man. Judges said in their ruling:

"Accepting the plaintiff's request would require recognising, in the guise of a simple rectification of his personal records, the existence of another sexual category. It is necessary to find a fair balance between the protection of the state of persons, which is a public issue, and respect for the private lives of people with a variation of sexual development. This fair balance would allow either for personal records which mention no sexual category, or the modification of the gender which has been assigned to them when it is not in line with their physical appearance and social behaviour." 

The judges added that since the plaintiff was married to a woman, granting a request to change his civil status would contradict his "physical appearance and social behaviour".

"As a teenager I understood that I was not a boy. I didn't have a beard, my muscles didn't build. After doctors administered testosterone, my appearance became more masculine. It was a shock, I no longer recognized myself. It made me realize I was neither a man nor a woman." said Monsieur to France's 20Minutes last October. 

According to Mila Petkova, her client is "very disappointed" with the court's decision.

"This is an additional violence inflicted on my client, and we will appeal this decision in France's highest court and if necessary the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Several countries including Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Nepal officially recognise a third gender on official forms. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh also have an official third gender designation for so-called hijra citizens who do not identify as male or female."



*Intersex, in humans and other animals, is a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. Such variation may involve genital ambiguity, and combinations of chromosomal genotype and sexual phenotype other than XY-male and XX-female.Often, intersex infants and children, such as those with ambiguous outer genitalia, are surgically or hormonally altered to create more socially acceptable sex characteristics. However, this is considered controversial, with no firm evidence of good outcomes.

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