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Today in the lovely land down under of Australia, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission is considering adding a third gender option to passports and government documents. This new gender status option, which will be labeled "intersex," seems like a progressive step forward for gender activists, but is it really?

While there are obvious benefits to adding an "intersex" option (e.g., individuals who consider themselves to be intersex will now be able to identify as such on federal documents), there are also drawbacks. By adding a third gender status option, the Australian government is admitting that gender is not binary, yet they are still encouraging rigid gender classifications. With this new system, there would just one more option to choose from.

Transgender lobby groups in Australia are lobbying for a fourth category labeled "other," for individuals who do not identify as male, female, or intersex. Certainly this would be an improvement and would allow for more freedom when it comes to gender identification, but is it really getting at the root issue of gender definition?

Wouldn't the progressive move here be not to add a third, or fourth, gender status option, but rather to eliminate rigid gender classifications from federal documents altogether? If the impetus behind this proposed change is a recognition that gender is indeed spectral, then doesn't that render the whole census-information-check-a-box-on-this-form system obsolete? I may be putting the cart before the genderqueer horse here, but it seems to me that adding a third gender option on federal documents won't do too much in the way of changing the dialogue when it comes to gender politics.

I am glad to see that Australia is addressing the issue of gender identity (and I hope the US will follow suit), but in time I hope we see them push the envelope just a bit further when it comes to gender classifications.

What do you think?

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This is so interesting. My

This is so interesting. My first reaction is to offer a small congratulations to Australia, as it is definitely a first step. Beyond that, I vascilate. On the one hand I think that it's a start to helping folks see that gender is not merely a binary notion. Having another option will be, for lack of a better word, an option for some folks. For others it will open their eyes and perhaps give them pause about traditional gender notions. And for others, it will be a small step in the right direction but still not a meaningful category. I think that you're right that the bottom line is that we need to move towards thinking of gender as a continuum. Or to helping those who DON'T to think of gender as a continuum. This might be a small first step. It's a hard journey, I think, but one I hope we can speed up.

Shameless plug here, as I blog about gender identity as it relates to my little boy here http://labelsareforjars.wordpress.com and I'd love for you all to visit and join the discussion.