This piece initially ran on Advocate.com. Read the original here.
In a move to make federal documents more inclusive of intersex, gender non-conforming, and nonbinary identities, Americans will be able to select the gender marker ‘X’ on their U.S. passport applications. The option will be available starting April 11, 2022, and for other documents in 2023, according to a statement by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Blinken made the announcement Thursday on Trans Visibility Day. In June 2021, Blinken said the department would begin the process of offering the option.
“The Department is setting a precedent as the first federal government agency to offer the X gender marker on an identity document,” Blinken said in the announcement. “We reaffirm our commitment to promoting and protecting the freedom, dignity, and equality of all persons – including transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming persons around the world.”
Other countries that allow a third gender option include Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand, and Pakistan. Blinken said the State Department had consulted partner countries in developing the option.
The department also worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics to conduct qualitative research on how to define the gender marker. It solicited feedback from LGBTQ+ communities to come up with the option.
“After thoughtful consideration of the research conducted and feedback from community members, we concluded that the definition of the X gender marker on State Department public forms will be ‘Unspecified or another gender identity.’ This definition is respectful of individuals’ privacy while advancing inclusion,” Blinken said.
"The provision of an 'X' gender marker option is important because human beings do not always fit within a male or female category around the world, the lived realities of transgender intersex, non-binary and gender-nonconforming persons reflects that there is a wider spectrum of humanity than is represented by a binary sex designation on passports," Jessica Stern, U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) Persons told CBS News.
In response to the announcement, GLAAD's president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said, “These updates to passports and TSA policy will make it safer for transgender, nonbinary, and intersex members of our community to travel and to walk through everyday life. Everyone deserves the right to have identity documents that reflect who they are, and to go through airport security without facing harassment and public humiliation. At a time when so many state legislatures are attacking our community, it’s heartening to have federal leadership take so much action to support LGBTQ Americans, especially trans youth.”
The first recipient of a passport with the ‘X’ gender marker was Dana Zzyym, an intersex and nonbinary U.S. Navy veteran in Colorado who had sued the Department of State for only offering a male or female choice on the passport application. Zzyym received the passport in October of last year.
The announcement also comes as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says it will implement gender-neutral screening procedures at airports, according to CBS News. A 2015 survey of transgender Americans from the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 43 percent of respondents who had gone through airport security reported that they experienced a problem at the checkpoint related to their gender identity.