French court legally recognizes intersex person as neither male nor female in landmark ruling

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

A French court has legally recognized a citizen as neither male nor female—a landmark ruling for intersex and non-binary sex recognition in France.


The intersex person at the center of the case—an unnamed 64-year-old resident of Tours—was assigned male at birth despite the presence of ambiguous genitalia, 20 minutes reports. As they told the French newspaper, neither the male identity they were assigned nor a female identity ever felt right.

"When I hit adolescence, I realized that I wasn't a boy," they told the paper. "I didn't develop facial hair, my muscles didn't get bigger… At the same time, I couldn't possibly think of myself as a woman."

A judge ruled that the person's male assignment was a "pure fiction" that was "imposed" upon their life. But, the judge clarified, the ruling is "not a question of recognizing the existence of a 'third gender,' but of acknowledging the impossibility of classifying [the intersex individual] as belonging to either one sex or the other."

The ruling was handed down somewhat quietly on Aug. 20. France is now the second European country to recognize a legal sex identity that is neither male nor female, after Germany. Neuter, or neutral, sex is also legally recognized in Thailand, Australia, India, Japan, Pakistan, and New Zealand, RT reports.

Being intersex is not the same as being transgender, although, like with people of any identity group, some intersex people do identity as trans. Intersex people are born with gonadal, chromosomal, and/or physical differences that don't always fit neatly into the male-female sex binary. Not all of these differences are phenotypical (or, able to recognized on the body). Despite these differences, most intersex people are assigned either male or female at birth, often with surgical intervention—and sometimes without informed consent from parents.

"Even today, the majority of babies born intersex are still operated on at birth," Mila Petkova, one of the lawyers in the case, told 20 minutes. "However, these operations have no therapeutic value. They are not performed in the interest of the child and their well-being, but in the interest of parents and a society that only provides two boxes, male and female, instead of first reassuring parents and then waiting for the children to grow up and consent, or not consent, to operations that affect them more than anyone."


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