The United States issued its first passport with an “X” gender marker, which indicates that a person is neither exclusively male nor female, the State Department said Wednesday.
This marks a milestone for non-binary and intersex Americans, who represent approximately 1.2 million and 4 million Americans, respectively, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, and interACT, an intersex advocacy group. . An increasing number of intersex, non-binary and gender non-conforming people have come out in recent years, but most of them have not been able to obtain IDs that accurately reflect who they are due to a patchwork of state laws across the country.
The State Department said it expects to be able to offer the “X” designation to more people early next year.
U.S. Special Diplomatic Envoy for LGBTQ Rights Jessica Stern called the measures historic and celebratory, saying they aligned government documents with the “lived reality” that there is a spectrum. broader in human sexual characteristics than what is reflected in the previous one. two designations.
“When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with more dignity and respect,” Stern said.
The ministry did not announce to whom the passport was issued. A department official declined to say if it was for Dana Zzyym, an intersex Colorado resident who has been in a legal battle with the department since 2015, saying the department does not generally discuss individual passport applications due to issues. confidentiality.
But Lambda Legal, the LGBTQ legal association representing Zzyym, confirmed that the organization’s client was the first person to receive a passport with an “X” on it.
“I almost burst into tears when I opened the envelope, pulled out my new passport and saw the ‘X’ boldly stamped under ‘sex’,” said Zzyym, who first filed the complaint in 2015 , in a press release. “I’m also excited that other intersex and non-binary US citizens will soon be able to apply for passports with the correct gender marker. It took six years, but having an accurate passport, a passport that doesn’t require me to identify as a man or a woman but recognizes that I am neither, is liberating.
Zzyym (pronounced Zimm) was denied a passport for failing to verify a man or woman on an application. According to court documents, Zzyym wrote “intersex” above the boxes marked “M” and “F” and requested an “X” gender marker instead in a separate letter.
Zzyym was born with ambiguous physical sex characteristics, but was raised as a boy, according to court documents. Zzyym later became intersex while working and studying at Colorado State University, and uses neutral pronouns. Zzyym’s passport ministry refusal prevented them from attending a meeting of the Intersex International Organization in Mexico.
The State Department announced in June that it was preparing to add a third gender marker, but said it would take time because it required extensive updates to its computer systems. A ministry official said the passport application and updating the system with the option to designate “X” still needs to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget, which approves all government forms, before being approved. be able to be issued.
The department now allows applicants to choose their gender as male or female themselves, no longer requiring them to provide a medical certificate if their gender does not match that indicated on their other identification documents.
The United States joins a handful of countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Nepal and New Zealand, in allowing their citizens to designate a gender other than male or female on their passports.
Stern said her office plans to talk about the United States’ experience with changing its interactions in the world and she hopes that might help inspire other governments to offer the option.
“We see this as a way to assert and uplift the human rights of trans and intersex and gender nonconforming and nonbinary people everywhere,” she said.
It is unclear how the policy change will affect the laws of states that do not recognize gender “X” markers. Twenty states and DC allow residents to use an “X” marker on their driver’s licenses, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit think tank.
States also have a mix of laws that govern how a person can request a change of gender marker on an ID. Twenty-two states allow people to decide which gender markers are right for them – which is now the policy the State Department will use – according to MAP.
This process, known as self-attestation, allows trans and non-binary people to protect themselves, said Arli Christian, campaign strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union, who lobbied the Biden administration to allow gender “X” markers on passports and advocate for laws that allow people to attest to their own sex.
“This is by far the best policy to ensure that all people have the most accurate gender marker on their identity card,” Christian said.
Other states either require certification from the health care provider in order to update a gender marker, court order, and proof of genital surgery, or they have unclear law.
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