Statistics Sweden, the nation's leading statistician, has opened up for introducing a third gender in official data, national broadcaster SVT reported.
The national number-cruncher presented its proposal for updated guidelines for individual-based statistics and is currently awaiting responses from the relevant bodies.
The National Board of Health and Welfare had no objections to the proposed guidelines, but at the same time stressed in its response that gender was "more complex than division into men and women". According to Lars Grönvik of the National Board of Health and Welfare, the binary concept of gender leaves out people who cannot identify themselves within this framework.
Grönvik called for statistics to become more inclusive.
"Official statistics are available to describe society in different ways. For it to be relevant to society, it is important that all users can recognise themselves in it. The binary concept of man and woman makes it impossible for everyone to recognise themselves", Grönvik said.
For the third gender alternative to be added to the official data such as the natinal registry, a legal change is required. However, much of the official data is based on questionnaires and self-reports, and there it would be possible to apply more options, according to Grönvik.
The issue of introducing a legal third gender has been on Sweden's agenda for several years. Despite massive support from left-of-the-centre parties, this idea runs into technical difficulties. Among other things, Sweden's current gender-specific ID number system must be replaced with a gender-neutral one. As of today, the second to last digit in the personal number all Swedes currently have clearly indicates whether it's a man or a woman.
In SVT's "election compass" published ahead of the the 2018 elections, the majority of the parliamentary parties responded positively to the idea of introducing a third legal gender. The ruling "red-green" bloc comprised of the Social Democrats and the Greens was backed by the Centre, the Left, and and the Liberals. By contrast, the right-of-the-centre Moderates, the Christian Democrats and the Sweden Democrats all thought it was a bad idea.
In late 2018, the Greens even introduced a bill to acknowledge the third gender in a bid to "facilitate life for those living outside of the hetero norm". The third gender alternative has also been supported by interest organisations such as the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights (RFSL).
Sweden has consistently ranked as one of the world's most LGBT-friendly nations. Its push for gender neutrality has even been reflected in the Swedish language, where a new third-person pronoun has been introduced to avoid the necessity of choosing between "he" and "she".
However, Sweden is not the first to consider a third legal gender. Denmark, New Zealand, and Australia have already introduced the possibility wholly or partially. In India, the third gender, hijra, was legalised in 2014. Registering as third gender has been possible in parts of the US as well, such as New York City.