The State Department announced on Wednesday that it has begun the process of updating passport-issuing procedures to better include the LGBTQ community
, including work
toward adding a gender mark for nonbinary, intersex, and gender-nonconforming applicants.
According to a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken
, first reported by The 19th, nonbinary people
will be able to obtain passports and IDs using an “X” marker instead of an “M” or “F” for the first time.
The department will “immediately” remove the requirement that transgender
people provide proof of their transition from a physician, allowing Americans to self-identify on their applications. Previously, trans people were required to select the “M” or “F” gender assigned to them at birth if it corresponded with other citizenship or identity documents.
The process of adding the “X” gender marker, according to Blinken, is “technologically complex” and “will take time for extensive system updates.” A source within the administration told The 19th that nonbinary people can expect to be able to obtain the new gender marker by the end of the year.
The change is the most significant to federal documents for transgender people since 2010, when the Obama administration implemented a policy allowing trans Americans to update their passports to reflect their correct gender.
BREAKING: The United States
will add the "X" gender marker to passports!Trans, nonbinary, and intersex Americans "will have the power to identify their own gender on travel
documents without providing medical documentation by the end of this year."More from @shoeleatherkate: https://t.co/vxKuCQbAVA
— Transgender Legal Defense & Education
Fund (@TLDEF) June 30, 2021
“In keeping with the Administration’s commitment to re-engage with allies and partners, the Department is taking these steps after extensive consultation with like-minded governments that have made similar changes,” Blinken said. “We also value our ongoing engagement with the LGBTQI+ community, which will inform our approach and positions moving
The update comes after the federal government has been facing litigation for about six years from Dana Zzyym, an intersex and nonbinary U.S. Navy veteran
who has been fighting for a passport that accurately reflects their gender identity
. Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit
in October 2015 alleging that the State Department violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act, among other claims.
The United States District Court for the District of Colorado
ruled in favor of Zzyym in November 2016 and again in September 2018, after a second hearing. The State Department appealed the case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered the agency to reconsider its decision to deny the veteran a passport, noting that forcing intersex people to choose a binary gender marker is discriminatory.
It is not difficult to respect someone's #pronouns. @LambdaLegal client Dana Zzyym, who is #nonbinary and #intersex, uses they/them pronouns. This federal court judge
uses Dana's correct pronoun with ease. #itsnothard pic.twitter.com/isxxFZTQRb — Paul D. Castillo (@PaulCastilloJD) February 23, 2019
“I’ve been in this fight for so long,” Zzyym said on Wednesday. “I am hopeful that, with the incredible support of Lambda Legal and the Intersex Campaign for Equality, I will soon receive an accurate passport. One that reflects who I truly am; and one that will allow me to present in person at the several international conferences to which I’ve been invited to present on issues confronting intersex people.
During the course of the litigation, Zzyym was able to obtain a Colorado driver's license with an "X" gender marker after the state's Division of Motor Vehicles updated its policy in 2018. In the United States, 21 states and the District of Columbia permit residents to obtain state driver's licenses and state-issued IDs with neutral gender markers, with Oregon
being the first to do so in 2016 and New York
being the most recent.
The State Department's decision brings the United States into line with at least ten other countries that issue passports with gender markers other than "M" or "F," including Australia
, Bangladesh, Canada
, Denmark, Germany
, Malta, Nepal
, New Zealand
, and Pakistan
. The "X" gender marker is recognized by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations
agency that recommends international transportation standards.
Why is this important? According to NCTE's US Trans Survey, only 11% of trans people had all of our IDs in our correct name and gender, and 1 in 3 were verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted when displaying ID. — National Center for Transgender Equality (@TransEquality) June 30, 2021
According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 68% of respondents did not have any identification or record that reflected both their name and gender.
A third of trans and nonbinary respondents who had IDs that did not match their identities reported being harassed, denied services, and sometimes attacked, with Middle Eastern and Indigenous respondents experiencing such incidents more frequently than other racial or ethnic groups.
“Having accurate passports and consistent ID is critical to daily life,” said the center’s executive director, Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, in a statement. “It’s necessary for travel, banking, a new job, and school. Inaccurate IS open transgender people up to harassment and discrimination
. Reforming US passports is a common-sense way to improve transgender people’s lives.”