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India joins the third gender leaders


In its ruling, the Indian Supreme Court said that recognising transgender people is a human rights issue.

India officially recognises transgender people: court says recognition ‘is a human rights issue’.

The plurality of society is increasingly being recognised around the world, with both marriage equality and non-binary gender labelling gaining ground.

India’s recent announcement of equal opportunity irrespective of caste, religion or gender brings official recognition to the millions of people in the country who do not fit into the male-female binary.

All official Indian documents will now have a third gender option, transgender, as a broad umbrella term for anyone choosing not to identify themselves as only male or female.

The ruling also places the category of transgender on the list of minority groups that are eligible for reserved government jobs and university places.

Campaigners in India hope that the inclusion on the government quota list will finally allow transgender individuals the opportunities they need to be able to fully contribute to society as equals, rather than scrabble for a living in the margins as many in the community currently are forced to do as they beg for a living.

In its ruling, the Indian Supreme Court said that recognising transgender people is a human rights issue.

The decision follows the state’s Election Commission’s recent inclusion of ‘other’ as a third gender choice on voter registration forms.

But this Supreme Court decision is the latest step forward in the global campaign for equality for the transgender community.

As the world’s communities grow bolder in their recognition of the spectrum of the human experience and preference, the words and phrases used to recognise or categorise people are increasingly being debated as an important part of identity.

And gender neutrality is a growing topic of discussion and campaign, with some of those involved disliking the use of the term ‘third gender’, saying that all it does is change gender from a binary into a trinary.

Other categories or labels that are currently in use in official capacities include ‘x’, ‘other’ and ‘indeterminate.’

Australia and the United States both introduced gender-neutral passports in 2011.

Australia updated its laws again in 2013, and now offers ‘x’ as a gender option on all personal records for people who identify their gender as indeterminate, intersex or unspecified.

As part of its 2011 law, the United States changed the words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ on family travel documents to ‘parent.’

In 2012, Sweden began the official use of ‘hen’ as a gender-neutral pronoun after decades of its unofficial use.

In November 2013, Germany introduced a third option for birth certificates, allowing parents to choose between male, female or indeterminate when filling out the form.

The change allows individuals to choose their sex when they are older, or, if they prefer, to continue using indeterminate.

The UK, however, does not recognise a third gender or the term intersex and retains only two gender options on official documents despite calls, since at least 2011 following the change of law in Australia, for gender-neutral passports.

Writing on her UK-based blog Complicity, Zoe says that ‘gender is fluid and on a spectrum, and not subject to being placed into little pots’.

Another UK-based blogger, Genderqueer in the UK, agrees and suggests replacing Ms and Mr with a new formal salutation such as Mx or Misc in order to include people who choose not to be identified as male or female.

With same-sex marriage now legal in the UK since 29 March 2014, pressure is mounting on officials and organisations to find ways to better reflect the plurality of our society.

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