The Government of the United States has issued the first gender-neutral passport marked with an X, it was announced Wednesday.
Authorities expect the option will become available for both travel documents and birth certificates of Americans abroad by early 2022.
The new documents are a milestone in the struggle for the legal rights of people stigmatized by binary labels of either male or female.
I want to reiterate, on the occasion of this passport issuance, the State Department's commitment to promoting the freedom, dignity and equality of all people, including LGBTQI + people, said State Department spokesman Ned Price in a statement.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had promised to address this issue in June, once some technological hurdles were resolved. Also under Blinken, the State Department allowed US passport holders to select their sex.
Under previous regulations, Americans needed a medical certificate to mark on their passports a gender that differed from that on their birth certificates.
The US special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, Jessica Stern, called the measures historic while affirming that they bring government documents in line with the lived reality that there is a broader spectrum of sexual characteristics. When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect, Stern said.
The first X-gender passport has been issued to Dana Zzyym, an intersex Colorado resident and former Navy veteran who has been in a legal battle since 2015. Zzyym (pronounced Zimm) had been denied a passport for not marking male or female on an application. According to court documents, Zzyym wrote intersex above the boxes marked M and F and requested instead of a gender marker X in a separate letter.
Zzyym was born with ambiguous physical sexual characteristics but was raised as a boy and underwent several surgeries that failed to make him appear fully male, according to court documents. Zzyym served in the Navy as a male but later identified as intersex while working and studying at Colorado State University. Without a passport, Zzyym was prevented from travelling to a meeting of the International Intersex Organization in Mexico.
At least 11 other countries already have X or other options on passports, according to the Employers for Equality and Inclusion Network, a London-based advocacy group. These countries include Canada, Germany and Argentina, as well as India, Nepal and Pakistan, a legacy of the historical South Asian concept of “hijra”, which refers to a third gender.
Zzyym said in a statement issued by the Lambda Legal law firm which had been handling the case that “I almost burst into tears when I opened the envelope, pulled out my new passport, and saw the ‘X’ stamped boldly under ‘sex’.”
“I’m also ecstatic that other intersex and non-binary US citizens will soon be able to apply for passports with the correct gender marker,” Zzyym added.
“It took six years, but to have an accurate passport, one that doesn’t force me to identify as male or female but recognizes I am neither, is liberating.”
Stern also said her office was planning to discuss the country’s experience in making the changes to passport gender markers to help other governments around the world do the same.