State Department issues first US passport with ‘X’ gender marker

The State Department on Wednesday issued the first U.S. passport with an “X” gender marker and expected to be able to expand the option to all passport applicants by next year, according to The Associated Press and the Washington Blade.

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The U.S. special envoy for LGBTQ rights, Jessica Stern, told the news organizations Tuesday that officials planned to issue the nation’s first gender-neutral passport, the Blade reported, calling it “a significant step towards ensuring that our administrative systems account for the diversity of gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.”

“When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect,” she said, according to the AP.

U.S. Navy veteran Dana Zzyym, who was born with ambiguous sexual characteristics and identifies as intersex, filed suit against officials in 2015 after being denied a passport for declining to identify as either male or female on a passport application, according to The Washington Post. Instead, Zyym wrote an “X” on their application, along with the explanation, “I am not male or female,” the newspaper reported.

Officials declined to identify the person who received the gender-neutral passport, citing privacy concerns, the Blade reported.

The State Department announced in June that it would allow passport applicants to self-select their genders as “M” or “F” with no medical certification required if their self-selected genders did not match the ones on other identifying documents. In a statement, officials said the department was “moving towards adding a gender marker for non-binary, intersex and gender non-conforming persons applying for a passport” or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad.

With the announcement, the United States joins several other countries, including Canada, Australia, Denmark, Nepal and Argentina, that allow people to opt for an “X” or “O” gender designation on official documents, according to CNN.

Stern told the Blade that she hoped the updated gender marker would make people safer by “reducing the likelihood of dehumanizing harassment and mistreatment that so often happens at border crossings when a person’s legal documentation does not correspond with their gender expression.”

“We see this as a way of affirming and uplifting the human rights of trans and intersex and gender-nonconforming and nonbinary people everywhere,” she said, according to the AP.