Gender-Neutral X Passports for US citizens

The United States government have announced that they will introduce gender-neutral passports for US citizens from April 11, 2022. The State Department confirmed this decision on the eve of Transgender Day of Visibility, the annual celebration of the transgender community that takes place on March 31.

In an official press statement, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said:

“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.”

The Department of State is the first federal government agency to offer the X gender marker on an official identity document.

What Is a Gender-Neutral X Passport?

A gender-neutral passport is a travel document which has an X as the gender marker. The X marker option is available for non-binary, intersex, and non-conforming citizens who do not identify as male or female.

Until now, it was only possible to select male or female on a US passport application. Those who do not identify as either would have to select a gender which they do not conform to, if they wanted to be granted a passport. If no gender was selected, the applicant would not be able to obtain a passport.

A gender-neutral passport is the same as previous passports without the X marker, and it can be used in the same way. Holders of a non-binary passport can use the document to travel and as an official identity document, like a birth certificate.

Other Non-Binary IDs

Gender-neutral passports will be highly useful for US citizens who do not identify as male or female, as it can often be difficult to obtain non-binary forms of official identification.

There are some US states which now issue gender-neutral birth certificates and state IDs and this is slowly increasing across the country. In 2020, the state of Ohio confirmed the decision to allow transgender Ohio citizens to change their birth certificate and update it with their true name and gender markers.

Although government administration is becoming easier in some states, this is not true for the whole country. Depending on the state you are in, it may not be possible to obtain official documentation which reflects your gender.

The option of an X marker on US passports will make obtaining official government ID much easier for the LGBTQ+ community.

An Important for Step for LGBTQ+ Rights

The introduction of a gender-neutral gender marker is a significant government move that will affect many US citizens.

It is now easier for individuals to legally change their name in the US, which can provide great comfort to those who no longer wish to be referred by the name on their birth certificate. However, obtaining official documentation with gender-neutral markers has remained difficult until now.

The U.S. special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ+ rights, Jessica Stern, referred to the government’s decision as “a momentous step”. Speaking at a news conference after the decision was passed, Stern said:

“The addition of a third gender marker propels the U.S. forward toward ensuring that our administrative systems account for the diversity of gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics among US citizens. The issuance of X gender markers on US passports does not create new definitions nor rights. This policy change recognizes the true identity of the passport holder.”

The fight for an X gender marker on US passports

In 2015, the US State Department went through a lengthy legal battle with an intersex Colorado resident named Dana Zzyym.

Zzymm, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, was denied a passport after leaving the gender marker empty and instead writing “intersex” above. Zzymm then sued the State Department for failing to issue them a passport, which prevented them from travelling outside the United States.

How to Get a Gender-Neutral US Passport

The process for getting a gender-neutral passport is the same as before. The only difference is that there is now a third gender option on passport applications.

Unlike some US states which require medical proof of a change in gender, the gender-neutral option can be selected without showing any additional documentation. US citizens who identify as neither male nor female can select the X marker on their passport application without taking any extra steps.