On Wednesday, the United States Department of State issued the 1st American passport with an ‘X’ gender marker, designed to give intersex, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming individuals a marker other than male or female on their travel document. Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, announced in June that the X marker would offer as a choice on passports, following other nations, including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Nepal, and Germany, which previously offered a 3rd gender on documents.
Ned Price, the spokesman of the State Department, stated that the U.S. was moving toward adding the ‘X’ gender marker as a choice for those applying for Consular Reports of Birth Abroad or United States passports. The spokesperson didn’t recognize the holder of the 1st ‘X’ gender passport, but Lambda Legal, the civil rights organization, said its client Dana Zzyym was the recipient.
The U.S. has issued its first passport with a third gender option.
The “X” gender option for nonbinary, intersex & gender-nonconforming people was first announced in June but has yet to be rolled out nationwide. About a dozen countries recognize more than 2 genders on passports. pic.twitter.com/lFLASOjric
— AJ+ (@ajplus) October 27, 2021
Dana Zzyym, an intersex activist from Fort Collins, Colorado
Zzyym, a nonbinary and an intersex United States Navy veteran, stated on Wednesday that they nearly burst into tears when they opened the envelope, pulled out his latest passport, and saw the ‘X’ stamped shamelessly under sex. It took around six years, but to have an authentic passport, one does not force them to identify as male or female but recognizes they are neither, are liberating. Zzyym confirmed to CNN that they received the passport and picked up the UPS package with the passport after getting an early phone call or morning text from their lawyer that it had arrived.
According to court filings, Zzyym was born with unclear physical, sexual characteristics but raised as a boy and then experienced many surgeries that unsuccessfully made Zzyym appear completely male. Moreover, Zzyym served in the U.S. Navy as a male but was later recognized as intersex while studying at Colorado State University. The denial of the State Department of Zzyym’s passport stopped Zzyym from attending two Organization Intersex International meetings.
Mary Emily O’Hara of GLAAD, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization of the world, said that transgender, intersex, and nonbinary people require identity documents that exactly echo who they are and have incompatible papers can create issues with visibility and safety. Furthermore, Jessica Stern, the United States special diplomatic representative for LGBTQ, said the recent decision brings the official papers in line with the lived reality that there is a broader spectrum of human sex characteristics than mirrored in the last two designations.
The “X” Designation Option is still Waiting for Approval from the Office of Management and Budget
In June, the U.S. Statement Department stated that it was moving toward adding a 3rd gender maker for gender-nonconforming, intersex, and nonbinary individuals, but that would take time because of needed updates to its computer systems. Likewise, a department official expressed that the system update and passport application with the ‘X’ designation option still anticipated endorsement from the Office of Management and Budget, which approves all government forms.
Now the department also allows candidates to self-select their gender as male or female. Furthermore, it no longer required applicants to provide medical certification of their gender that didn’t match that mentioned on their identification papers. Jessica Stern, the United States special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, said that her office decided to talk about the American experience with the change in its connections globally that might help to inspire other worldwide governments to offer the option.
However, the previous policy for changing a gender marker on a U.S. passport required an official medical certificate along with the application, which was only available to those individuals who had transitioned their gender. Around twenty American states, including the District of Columbia, allow an ‘X’ gender designation on the licenses of the driver.
The Change Announced after a Federal Discrimination Lawsuit
This year, the department announced that it would make the change following Dana Zzyym’s lawsuit, who argued that it was not possible to get a U.S. passport with their accurate gender because male and female were the only options. Additionally, in June, Zzyym told NPR that it is big news for all nonbinary and intersex individuals because it basically says they cannot receive their passports. Additionally, the policy changes apply to Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBAs).