A third gender option?

House of Parliament, Kathmandu, Nepal. A 2007 court decision paved the way for the creation of a third gender option in the country. (Wikipedia)
House of Parliament, Kathmandu, Nepal. A 2007 court decision paved the way for the creation of a third gender option in the country. (Wikipedia)

Nepal is being applauded for introducing what some are calling a “third gender” option for passports: “Other.”

Reports the Human Rights Watch: “Monica Shahi made history … as Nepal’s first citizen to carry a passport that allows its bearer to select a gender other than male or female. This acknowledgement of her gender identity follows years of activism that pushed the legal system to recognize gender on the basis of self-identification.”

Monica and other activists in Nepal sees it as a step forward. In an AFP report, she says this: “I cannot describe my happiness today. My country has recognised and respected my identity,” the 37-year-old activist told AFP. “My struggle was not just for myself, but for future generations. Now everyone like me can get this service.”

At first, I thought the whole thing sounded like a compromise to me. After all, HRC and others, including me, are using female pronouns for Monica in our reports, because we recognize Monica as female. And, to the best of my knowledge, Nepal does allow people to change gender designations within the gender binary — but, I suspect, only after having sexual reassignment surgery.

But a very lengthy legal report I am still studying, called Establishing a Third Gender Category in Nepal: Process and Prognosis, quotes LGBT rights advocate Sunil Babu Pant of Nepal’s Blue Diamond Society saying this: “There are some people on earth who consider themselves neither male nor female. . . . They like to be called third gender.”

Perhaps Monica really does self-identify as “Other.”

Nepal has had a third gender option in its civil code for transgender people since 2007, even if its implementation has been somewhat piecemeal, as the report suggests.  Other countries offer the option, too. It has been around for a long time in one form or another. “Third gender categories have appeared throughout history in various forms,” the legal report says.

At this point, I’m going to tear myself away from Nepal and the history of third gender variations, though I will finish reading the legal report and may post again about it.

But I wonder about transgender people in countries where there are no third gender options. In my old Gazette blog, I once polled transgender people on the issues: Would you like to see a third gender option in your country? Say, T for Transgender?

The vast majority of trans people who responded said no.

But I wonder if views have changed since then. After all, many transgender people don’t identify as male or female. Some call themselves “queer.”

So, I’m asking again: Would you like to see a third gender option in your country, be it “Other” or “Transgender” or something else?

— Jillian Page, LGBT Perspectives editor

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“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey

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