Vanessa Willoughby
October 15, 2015 8:32 am

Big news for France! On Wednesday, a prosecutor announced that a French court recognized a third gender for a plaintiff who was born with both male and female genitalia. Originally picked up by the French daily newspaper 20 Minutes, the individual can now use the term “neutral gender” on personal official documents. The individual, who is married with an adopted child, told the newspaper, “As a teenager I understood that I was not a boy. I didn’t have a beard, my muscles didn’t grow. Today I finally feel I am recognized by society for who I really am.”

Vice-prosecutor Joel Patard said that the 64-year-old went to the French courts in June in order to obtain the “neutral gender” civil status, as they did not want to identify as male or female. To support their case, medical evidence and research were presented to prove that this individual’s case was not an anomaly.

The individual also told 20 Minutes that after receiving testosterone at age 35, “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.”

The case is up for appeal. Patard noted that although he was appealing the court’s decision, it was not out of a personal agenda but believed that “a higher ruling was necessary in a case that has collided with current laws.”

Other countries such as Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Nepal have also officially sanctioned third gender on official documents and forms.

In India, individuals who identify as third gender are labeled as hijra, a broad term to describe “cross dressers, naturally intersex people, or transgender women.” Last year, the Indian Supreme Court recognized hijras as a protected class. Although the numbers are not clear, the hijra population is believed to be as high as 6 million. Unfortunately, despite court rulings, identifying as a hijra is not completely socially accepted.

Like India, Pakistan’s Supreme Court recognized gender changes in 2009. According to the National Database and Registration Authority, fewer than 10 percent of Pakistan’s estimated 1 million self-identifying khawaja saras (third-gender individuals) have gotten new identity cards with their chosen gender. However, it hasn’t been an easy path to social and cultural acceptance. In an interview with The Huffington Post, an individual by the name of Aashaf said, “Being outcasts, our families will not provide documents proving when we were born.” She added, “Given the adverse situation, it is highly ridiculous to ask us to provide birth certificates and school certificates.”

Nausher Khan, project director of the Khawaja-Sara Rehabilitation Program, a local organization that is not government affiliated, confessed that, “Real empowerment for the community will take big changes at the government and social levels, and at least another 20 years.”

Still, this ruling in France is a triumph. People being recognized for how they identify is always a win in our book.

Related reading: 

Gender-neutral baby names are officially winning in 2015

In the spirit of inclusivity, this elementary school created gender-neutral bathrooms

[Image via Shutterstock]

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