US issues first passport with ‘X’ gender

The United States has issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation, marking a milestone in the recognition of the rights of people who do not identify as male or female, and expects to be able to offer the option more broadly next year.

Advocates said the decision to join over a dozen countries that allow a third-gender option would allow people to travel as their authentic selves and possibly keep them safer doing it.

“Intersex, non-binary, and transgender people need identity documents that accurately reflect who we are, and having mismatched documents can create problems with safety and visibility,” said Mary Emily O’Hara of GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQI media advocacy organisation,

The US special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQI rights, Jessica Stern, said the decision brings the government documents in line with the “lived reality” that there is a wider spectrum of human sex characteristics than is reflected in the previous two designations.

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

The State Department said in June that it was moving toward adding a third gender marker for non-binary, intersex and gender-nonconforming people but that would take time because of required updates to its computer systems.

In addition, a department official said the passport application and system update with the “X” designation option still awaited approval from the Office of Management and Budget, which signs off on all government forms.

The department now also allows applicants to self-select their gender as male or female, no longer requiring them to provide medical certification if their gender did not match that listed on their other identification documents.

Stern said her office planned to talk about the US experience with the change in its interactions around the world and hopes that might help inspire other governments to offer the option.

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

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