French court recognises third gender for first time

A French court has declared that an individual, who was born with both male and female genitalia, can now use the term "neutral gender" on personal official documents.
A French court has declared that an individual, who was born with both male and female genitalia, can now use the term "neutral gender" on personal official documents.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

PARIS (AFP) - A French court has for the first time recognised a third gender for a person born with both male and female genitalia, a prosecutor said Wednesday (Oct 14).

The plaintiff, who had been considered a man since being designated male at birth, can now use the term "neutral gender" on personal official documents as a result of the Aug 20 court ruling, vice-prosecutor Joel Patard said.

The case is however subject to appeal.

It was originally reported by the daily newspaper 20 Minutes, which interviewed the individual involved, who is married and has adopted a child.

The plaintiff was born with a "rudimentary vagina" and a "micropenis" but no testicles.

"As a teenager I understood that I was not a boy. I didn't have a beard, my muscles didn't grow," the individual told the paper. "Today I finally feel I am recognised by society for who I really am."

Patard said the 64-year-old had approached the courts in June to seek the "neutral gender" civil status, not wanting such an "unequivocal" designation as male or female.

Medical evidence and research showing that the individual was not unique were produced in the case, Patard said.

The plaintiff told 20 Minutes that at age 35, after doctors administered testosterone: "My appearance became more masculine. It was a shock, I no longer recognised myself. It made me realise I was neither a man nor a woman."

The vice-prosecutor said he was however appealing the court's decision, not because he fiercely opposed it but because he felt a higher ruling was necessary in a case that has "collided with current laws".

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.