For people who don't identify as male or female, there is finally an option to obtain a U.S. passport that accurately reflects their identity. This week, the State Department issued its first passport with an "X" gender designation and plans to offer this option more broadly next year.
The move is being applauded as a move in the right direction toward recognizing the rights of those who don't fit into traditional gender categories.
"When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect," Jessica Stern, U.S. special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, told the Associated Press. Stern also added that this move brings the documents closer to reflecting the "lived reality" that there is a wider spectrum of human sex characteristics.
The U.S. State Department announced in June that it was taking steps towards adding a third gender marker for for nonbinary, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people, with one of the biggest hurdles being the extensive updates required for the computer systems. According to the AP, although the first X-gendered passport has been issued, the passport application and system update with this third option still needs to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget, which approves all government forms.
Another change recently made to the passport application includes allowing people to self-select their gender as male or female without requiring medical certification if their gender does not match what is listed on their other forms of identification.
With the latest changes, the U.S. is now among a small group of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, and Canada, that allow citizens to self-select a gender other than male or female on their passports.
"We see this as a way of affirming and uplifting the human rights of trans and intersex and gender-nonconforming and nonbinary people everywhere," Stern said.