1 Nov 2013

Doctors still do not acknowledge that I’m intersex’

Maya Posch has fought for almost a decade to be recognised as intersex. She tells Channel 4 News why Germany’s change of law is a seminal moment.

Maya Posch has fought for nearly a decade to be recognised in the Netherlands as an intersex person. In an interview with Channel 4 News, she explains the difficulties she has encountered and why she plans to move to Germany.

“Gender is a personal thing. With transgenders we allow people to change sex. So why the hell should we force gender upon an infant? It doesn’t make sense,” she says.

Each year, one in every 2,000 babies – or 0.05 per cent of the world’s population – is born with ambiguous sex organs. Often that means being automatically enrolled into a life that will only be understood years later.

But with choices already made – either by anxious parents or the result of over-eager medical judgments – the consequences can be emotionally devastating.

Now Germany has become the first European country to allow new-born babies to be registered as neither male nor female. They will, in effect, be the “indeterminate sex”, or the third sex.

Small change, big difference

It is a small bureaucratic detail, but intersex people, who are often left to languish with no clear gender-defining characteristic, it is a major step towards change. Society’s attitudes to those of intersex can be alienating at best – or psychologically torturous at worse.

In the words of one adult with no clear gender-defining genitalia, whose testimony contributed towards the change of law in Germany, “I am neither a man nor a woman. I will remain the patchwork created by doctors, bruised and scarred.”

For Posch, she was lucky to have parents that did not comply with social or medical pressure – and allowed her the freedom to decide for herself.

“I never made a decision. I just stayed between both emotionally and I never chose anything. But medical experts still don’t understand that I’m intersex. I have to go to Germany for that.”

Moving on

Germany’s new law, which follows in the footsteps of Australia, allows parents to select “blank” rather than male and female – allowing the child the option to choose later in life.

Signed in a constitutional court, the law is designed to ease pressure on parents to make quick decisions on sex assignment surgery. It decrees that as long as a person “deeply feels” he or she belongs to a certain sex, theirs is the right to choose a legal identity.

Few can predict what effect the law might have. Yet emotionally its ramifications can already be felt. For Posch, who has fought for nearly a decade to be recognised as a third sex, the signifance of the moment cannot be overstated: “This [change of law] is incredible,” she says.

“If more people were born and given the third gender choice, it would have made their lives so much better and so much happier.”