Here’s how a long legal battle led to a big step forward.
The U.S. has issued its first gender-neutral passport — a milestone in the recognition of rights for people who don’t identify as male or female. Here’s a breakdown of the new policy and what inspired the change.
What is the new gender option on American passports?
The State Department announced this week that it had issued the first passport with the gender marker “X,” providing an inclusive option for nonbinary, intersex, or gender non-conforming citizens. The option will be available to all applicants in early 2022.
“I want to reiterate, on the occasion of this passport issuance, the Department of State’s commitment to promoting the freedom, dignity, and equality of all people — including LGBTQI+ persons,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.
What’s driving the change?
Dana Zzyym has fought for a shift in policy since 2015. Zzyym, who uses they/them pronouns, identifies as intersex and nonbinary. They were denied a passport for failing to check male or female and instead writing “intersex” on an application.
Zzyym told the Associated Press that their fight for the passport was a way to help the next generation of intersex people win recognition. Zzyym also confirmed they were the recipient of the first passport with the “X” gender marker.
“I’m not a problem. I’m a human being. That’s the point,” Zzyym said.
Where does the rest of the world stand?
A handful of countries, including Canada, Australia, and India, have similar policies.
“When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect,” said Jessica Stern, the U.S. special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights.
The U.S. has been moving toward offering more gender-inclusive options on documents. Earlier this year, the Biden Administration said it would allow passport applicants to choose “M” or “F” without providing medical certification.