On March 20 a White House petition was launched asking the U.S. government to consider one thing: Recognize non-binary genders and give citizens who don’t fit in the male or female categories a new, legal status.
"Legal documents in the United States only recognize ‘male’ and ‘female’ as genders," the petition says, "leaving anyone who does not identify as one of these two genders with no option."
So far, more than 89,000 people have signed and supported the petition online. It needs 11,000 more signatures before the Obama administration will be required to respond to the matter.
But even if the petition does reach the 100,000-mark, it’s unlikely the government will be changing its gender policies anytime soon. This doesn’t mean the discussion should stop, however. Recently, inititatives like this petition and Facebook’s 50 new gender options for its users have raised questions about the treatment of people who feel they don’t fit in the male-female gender binary. Do we ignore them? Or do we try to find a way to achieve a legal and social solution? This would mean a significant, if not radical change for Americans, including the nearly 700,000 transgender citizens living in the U.S.
Although several states include laws that clearly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, the U.S. government still does not allow for a third, non-specific gender option on legal documents.
Instead it has been other countries, particularly in Asia, who have taken the lead on this issue over the past six years. A week ago, an Australian court ruled that the government should recognize a third, neutral and non-specific gender besides the traditional “male” and “female” categories. The decision was a win for Norrie, an Australian who doesn’t identitify as male or female, and who had originally applied for a non-specific gender status. With this landmark ruling, Australia also became the world’s sixth country to recognize a third gender option for its citizens. The first to do so on its census forms was Nepal, following a 2007 decision. In total, seven countries now offer an alternative option on their legal documents, even though several of them are far more culturally conservative than the U.S.
Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
It begs the question: Why hasn’t the U.S. followed suit?