Babies born in Germany with both male and female characteristics – known as intersex – can now have their gender left blank on birth certificates.
It is hoped parents will no longer feel pressured into quick decisions on sex assignment surgery in order to tick a male or female box.
An estimated one in 2,000 people are born with characteristics of both genders.
Katinka Schweizer from Hamburg University says decisions for babies and children who are intersex should not be rushed.
“Intersexuality is not a disease. It is a variant of nature. It is a term that describes many phenomena. There are forms that come with the need to treat the condition. But when it is about cosmetic surgery of the genitals then one should wait long enough until the persons can take their own decisions,” Schweizer said.
Germany is the first country in Europe to offer this option on a birth certificate, and only the second in the world after Australia.
German passports, will also have a third designation of X, alongside M and F.
The law was changed after a review of cases revealed early surgery forcing people into a particular gender had caused great suffering.