US issues first passport with ‘X’ for gender

The designation will be available for all non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming citizens by early next year.

In June, the State Department announced citizens would be able to self select their gender on their passports, even if their choice does not reflect other government documents. [File: Fred Greaves/Reuters]

The United States has issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation – a milestone in the advancement of rights for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming citizens.

The Department of State on Wednesday said the new designation would be available early next year for the general public. It did not identify who had received the passport.

Department of State spokesperson Ned Price, in a tweet, said the agency “continues to take steps to demonstrate our commitment to promoting the freedom, dignity, and equality of all people – including LGBTQI+ US citizens”.

The plan to offer the new designation was announced by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June.

At the time, he also announced that passport applicants would be allowed to select a gender that does not match “the gender on their other citizenship or identity documents”.

The US special envoy to advance the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, Jessica Stern, called the moves historic and celebratory, saying they bring the government documents in line with the “lived reality” of a wide spectrum of human gender characteristics and identities.

“When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect,” Stern told the Associated Press.

The US joined a handful of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Nepal and Canada, in allowing its citizens to designate a gender.

‘Affirming and uplifting’

When asked by The Associated Press, a Department of State official declined to say if the passport in question had been issued to Dana Zzyym, an intersex Colorado resident who has been in a legal battle with the department since 2015.

Zzyym (pronounced Zimm) was denied a passport for failing to check male or female on an application.

According to court documents, Zzyym wrote “intersex” above the boxes marked “M” and “F” and requested an “X” gender marker instead in a separate letter.

Zzyym was born with ambiguous physical sexual characteristics but was raised as a boy and underwent several surgeries that failed to make Zzyym appear fully male, according to court filings.

Stern said her office planned to talk about the US experience with the policy changes with governments around the world, in the hopes that that might help inspire others to offer the non-binary option.

“We see this as a way of affirming and uplifting the human rights of trans and intersex and gender-nonconforming and nonbinary people everywhere,” she said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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