Eurovision winner Nemo and fans

Swiss singer Nemo is greeted by fans holding up flags of the transgender and non-binary communities at Zurich Airport following his Eurovision win.


Eurovision sensation Nemo says Switzerland should offer residents a third gender option on official documents, a move the Alpine nation has so far resisted. What’s the situation in other countries?

As the first non-binary person to win the Eurovision Song Contest, Nemo is raising the profile of the community of people who identify as neither male nor female. Nemo is now advocating for a change in Swiss law to allow people to choose a third gender option on government-issued documents.

Justice Minister Beat Jans has said he’s open to discussing the subject with the Eurovision winner.

The binary status quo in Switzerland

Until now, such a change has not been on the cards. In December 2022, the Swiss government rejected proposals in parliament to introduce a third gender option for official records. Not only would this require various legal changes, including to the constitution, the government said, but the “societal preconditions” for such a change were not yet in place.

A survey by Tamedia in May 2023 appeared to confirm this: a majority of respondents (62%) said they did not support adding a third gender or a no-gender option to official documents. That same year the Federal Court affirmed the status quo, ruling that only male and female options are possible on government-issued records.


A 2023 Ipsos survey of 30 countries found that Switzerland had the highest proportion of people who identify as transgender, non-binary or gender-fluid – at 6% it came ahead of Thailand (5%) and neighbouring Italy and Germany (both 4%).

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), the legal recognition of gender identity should include non-binary identities, be a simple administrative procedure based on self-identification, and not include any abusive medical or legal requirement. Minors, the UNHCHR added, should also have access to recognition of their gender identity.

External Content

An X on passports

Many countriesExternal link provide access to a gender-neutral marker on one official document: the passport. The International Civil Aviation Organization, which sets the standards for machine-readable passports, provides three options: female, male or X (for unspecified). 

Countries in Europe that offer all three include Austria, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Malta and The Netherlands.


Elsewhere, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Australia and New Zealand also offer option X to passport holders.

A third gender option on other official documents in Europe…

A few countries have taken the additional step of enshrining a third gender option in the law and thus offer this marker more broadly.

Germany did this in 2018. Its third gender option, called “diverse”, was initially limited to intersex people – those born with sex characteristics that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies – who present a medical certificate.

Then, in April 2024, the German parliament passed a law to make the “diverse” marker available to all over-18s – including trans and non-binary people – alongside the binary male and female options. People can select one based on self-identification rather than a medical certificate. Under-18s can do this with parental consent.

In Iceland, the Gender Autonomy Act passedExternal link in 2019 allows residents to register, based on their lived experience, as neither male nor female (the “X” option) on official documents. In Malta, since 2018 those who do not want to be registered as either male or female can chooseExternal link X on identity documents.

In Austria, the third gender option is available only to intersex people.

The Netherlands has taken an altogether different approach. In 2020 it introduced a policy to remove all gender markers from national identity documents in an effort to promote inclusion. The markers, however, remain on birth certificates.

… and in other parts of the world

On the Indian subcontinent, hijras – people who are transgender, intersex or eunuch – have long been a part of society. In 2014, the Indian Supreme Court ruledExternal link a third gender option on official documents should be created for transgender people. Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh also have legislation in place recognising the hijra community as a third gender.

Singers from the Hijra community in India

Identity documents give the hijra community in India access to employment and social benefits.


Further south, New Zealand introduced a self-identification process in 2023 that allows over-18s to choose from three sex markers on official documents: male, female or non-binary. People can also choose to record the sex of a child as “indeterminate” on a birth certificate. In Australia, a high court in New South Wales recognised the existence of a third gender in 2014 for those who do not identify as female or male.

In 2021, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to pass legislation allowing people to choose a third gender, X, on identity documents through a simple administrative procedure.

In the United States, more than 20 states allowExternal link residents to select gender-neutral marker X on identity documents including birth certificates and driver’s licences.

Change a long way off for many countries

At the other end of the scale are places, like Switzerland, where court rulings and government policy have gone against efforts to introduce a non-binary gender marker. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Court of Appeal in 2020 ruled there was no human rights obligation for the state to offer a gender-neutral option on passports.

In some countries, the issue is a non-starter. Official anti-LGBTQ sentiment is strong in Romania and Bulgaria, says the 2022 Rainbow Europe reportExternal link, which maps LGBTQ rights across the continent. In Hungary, parliament has adopted a ban on portraying or promoting “gender identity different from sex at birth, the change of sex and homosexuality” for under-18s. And in Russia, the Supreme Court in 2023 branded the “international LGBT movement” as extremist.

Africans on the whole face more anti-LGBTQ laws than people elsewhere, saysExternal link the Council on Foreign Relations thinktank. South Africa is the sole country on the continent (and among just a dozen in the world) that explicitly protects members of the LGBTQ community in its constitution. And only Namibia and South Africa are known to allow people to legally change their gender marker – though only following surgery.

Edited by Virginie Mangin