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Citizens of the United States will be able to choose option X as a gender-neutral option for their passports. The White House passport change was part of Thursday’s White House announcement that rolled out new policies for Transgender Day of Visibility.
This significant milestone for gender-neutral, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary U.S. citizens on April 11, according to The White House stated that is a substantial step toward efforts made by the president for the department to create accurate identifications for everyone.
The Department of Homeland Security proclaimed a sequence of actions to enhance travel experiences for people who are transgender. Traveling for people who are transgender has been known to cause stress and discrimination due to traditional male and female designations.
TSA Gender-Neutral Changes
The steps being taken include making updates to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Advanced Imaging Technology to heighten security and regulation by minimizing scare rates and searches for the people traveling. These upgrades will replace the present system with more accurate gender-neutral technology. In addition, transgender individuals have gone through added security screening because of alarms in sensitive areas.
An additional step will show the TSA updating procedures to withdraw gender considerations to confirm travelers’ identification at security areas in the airport. The new screening policies will be gender-neutral. During Wednesday’s news conference, the TSA stated that it would also give out new gender-neutral screening procedures. The TSA Inclusion Action Committee Chair, Jose Bonilla, made clear that the TSA will work with their manufacturer partners to create a new algorithm for better imaging technology (AIT). These body scanners will enable officers to screen gender-neutrally and boost security.
Jessica Stern’s Thoughts on Gender-Neutral X Option
U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons Jessica Stern proclaimed that the addition of a gender-neutral X on U.S. passports is an important step. She explained that the passport update is of high importance because some people do not identify as male or female.
“The lived realities of transgender, intersex, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming persons reflect that there is a wider spectrum of humanity than is represented by a binary sex designation on passports,” Stern explained.
In June, the State Department announced that it would start putting a third gender option but did not state when this would happen. The first gender-neutral X passport was issued in October 2021.
Gender-neutral, intersex, and nonbinary U.S. citizens that are not solely male or female comprise approximately four million people. This information was provided by Williams Institute from the UCLA School of Law and interACT, an advocacy group for intersex. Many people who do not identify as male or female have been unable to get identifications that correctly identify their gender because many states do not have laws to allow for a new designation. Fourteen states demand proof of sex-change surgery to change a birth certificate.
U.S. State Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of Consular Affairs Douglass Benning proclaimed that people would have the ability to choose X on passports on their own. No added documents will be needed, he said.
The policy is the same as the one the State Department announced last June that allows people to select their gender preference without additional information needed. In addition, they no longer have to provide medical documents if their choice does not match their listed gender on identification.
Lawsuit Against the State Department
After a long legal fight, the State Department agreed to a gender-neutral choice on U.S. passports. Dana Zzyym, 66, an intersex resident in Colorado who uses gender-neutral pronouns, sued the State Department in 2015. The lawsuit was initiated after Zzyym was denied a passport after failing to choose the male or female option on the application.
Based on documents from the court, Zzyym used intersex on the application above the designated gender boxes. The lawsuit requested a gender-neutral X gender mark in place of “F” or “M” in a letter separate from the application. The State Department rejected the application for a passport. As a result, Zzyym was prevented from traveling to Mexico for an Organization Intersex International meeting.
Due to privacy concerns, the department would not confirm or deny if Zzyym was the first person to receive a gender-neutral passport in October. However, Lambda Legal confirmed Zzyym received the first passport with the gender-neutral X gender marker.
Zzyym “almost burst into tears” upon receiving the new passport in October. “I’m also ecstatic that other intersex and nonbinary U.S. citizens will soon be able to apply for passports with the correct gender marker.”
Written by Marrissa Kay
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
NBC News: Gender-neutral X passports will be available in April; by Jo Yurcaba
BBC News: US issues first gender-neutral ‘X’ passport
CNN Politics: X gender marker option on passport applications to be available in April, Blinken says; by Chandelis Duster
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of T E E X’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of sean hobson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License