US issues first passport with ‘X’ gender marker

Change allows those who do not identify as male or female to express identity

The US has issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation — 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, the State Department said on Wednesday.

The US special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, Jessica Stern, called the move historic and celebratory, saying it 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,” Ms Stern said.

The department did not announce to whom the passport was issued.

A department official declined to say whether it was for Dana Zzyym — an intersex Colorado resident who has been in a legal battle with the department since 2015 — saying the department does not usually discuss individual passport applications because of privacy concerns.

Zzyym was denied a passport for failing to check male or female on an application. Court documents show that Zzyym wrote “intersex” above the boxes marked “M” and “F” and requested an “X” gender marker instead in a separate letter.

Born with ambiguous physical sexual characteristics but raised as a boy, Zzyym underwent several surgeries that failed to make Zzyym appear fully male, court filings said. Zzyym served in the Navy as a man but later came to identify as intersex while working and studying at Colorado State University.

The department’s denial of Zzyym’s passport prevented Zzyym from being able to travel to a meeting of Organisation Intersex International in Mexico.

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

“We look forward to offering this option to all routine passport applicants once we complete the required system and form updates in early 2022,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

A department official said the passport application and system update with the “X” designation option still needs to go through the Office of Management and Budget, which approves all government forms, before they can be issued.

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

The US joins a handful of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Nepal and Canada, in allowing its citizens to designate a gender other than male or female on their passports.

Ms Stern said her office planned to speak about the US experience with this issue around the world in hopes that it 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 nonbinary people everywhere,” she said.

Updated: October 27th 2021, 5:32 PM