The US state department has said transgender Americans are now able to change the gender marker on their passports, and a non-binary option will soon be offered.
In an announcement on the last day of Pride Month, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said procedures would be immediately updated so applicants can self-select their gender as “M” or “F”, and the agency will no longer require medical certification if an applicant’s self-selected gender does not match the gender on their other citizenship or identity documents.
A move toward gender inclusivity was promised by Joe Biden on the campaign trail. Blinken said the administration expresses its “enduring commitment to the LGBTQI+ community today and moving forward”.
“The department has begun moving towards adding a gender marker for non-binary, intersex and gender non-conforming persons applying for a passport or Consular Reports of Birth Abroad,” said Blinken. Those are documents that affirm a child is a US citizen if born abroad to a citizen or a permanent resident parent.
The third option, which would probably take the form of an “X”, will take some time to roll out. Blinken said the agency is working to figure out the best way to achieve a non-binary, intersex, or gender non-conforming gender marker on passport applications because updating the document requires system updates, and can be “technologically complex”.
LGBTQI+ advocates applauded the policy change on Wednesday, calling it a common sense move they had been advocating for.
“Having accurate passports and consistent ID is critical to daily life,” said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality. “It’s necessary for travel, banking, starting a new job and school. Inaccurate IDs open transgender people up to harassment and discrimination.”
According to an organizational survey, only 11% of respondents said all of their identification documents had the name and gender they preferred. Nearly a third of the people who had an ID with a gender or name that didn’t match their gender presentation had been denied benefits, service, or been verbally harassed or assaulted.
Australia, Nepal, Canada, Argentina, India, Denmark, Iceland and New Zealand all have gender-inclusive passport options. Many US states, including New Jersey and Massachusetts, have a non-binary option for driver’s license applications and other state documents.
The president has taken steps toward improving conditions for LGBTQI+ individuals during the first six months of his administration. The veterans affairs secretary, Denis McDonough, recently announced that gender confirmation surgery will be available to transgender veterans through Vveterans affairs health care coverage.
Legislators want more. According to the 19th News, a group of congressional Democrats in May asked Biden to use executive power to mandate a gender neutral “X” on federal identification documents.