Gender X: Is US right to issue new passport option?

Fred Greaves

Fact Box

  • On October 27, 2021, the US State Department issued the first official passport with “gender “X” to “better serve all U.S. citizens, regardless of their gender identity,” stating the change was meant “for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons.”
  • There are 15 countries that allow for a third gender on their official documentation: Argentina, Austria, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, India, and Nepal. 
  • According to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), there are 21 states that allow M, F, or X on driver’s licenses. 
  • On June 1, 2021, President Biden issued a statement in support of the movement calling out “nearly 14 percent” of his 1,500 agency appointees as LGBTQ. He stated, “We will not rest until full equality for LGBTQ+ Americans is finally achieved and codified into law.”
  • As of February 24, 2021, a Gallup report estimates 5.6% of adults in the United States identify as LGBTQ.

Ethan (No)

Gender X signifies options for multiple identities, used to represent the 'gender' for those who are non-binary, transgender, or intersex. Having this many identities wrapped under one vague gender marker will inevitably get confusing as passport holders will have to specify which they identify (or don't identify) as.  

While many countries recognize gender X on passports, not all of them recognize more than two genders and even those who do often have varying legislation about what is accepted. For a gender X identifier traveling to another country, not having a valid or recognized gender option selected on their passport may result in a number of travel issues.

Some people identify as different genders daily. From a practical standpoint, this would make a passport useless for identifying someone based on gender, which is one of the reasons gender is included on a passport in the first place. Additionally, in medical emergency situations, passports are used to identify a person's sex for safety reasons related to medication, treatment options, etc. Not having a person's sex listed on their passport just to make them feel accepted could endanger their health and safety. Passports aren’t meant to affirm a person's gender nonconformity, but to correspond to material reality, including a person's birth sex

The gender X passport option allows those selecting Gender X not to show medical documentation if their gender does not match that listed on said documentation, which will certainly cause problems. What prevents someone from lying about their passport information? Because passport information isn't shared with the general public, it would be easy to simply select male or female for and still dress and identify however they choose without being limited by an indication on a piece of paper.  

Joanna (Yes)

The US will not be the first or last country to allow a 'gender 'X' or an otherwise non-binary option on passports. A total of fifteen other countries, including Canada and Australia, have previously adopted the third option for their citizens. The US's decision to follow these nations' lead will begin to normalize gender fluidity in our society while conjunctively taking an international stand for LGBTQI+ rights.

It takes real, actionable efforts for our institutions and government to recognize gender beyond just the binary, as these things must be done to expand and normalize gender rights in US society. Despite playing catch-up, the US is taking commendable steps toward an inclusive society. This comes as celebrated news to many Americans, and the US LGBTQ Envoy celebrates the fact that these changes reflect these peoples’ 'lived reality.'

Considering the unique spectrum of gender identities and their human expressions, noting one's gender on a passport is not always necessary or relevant in identifying a person. For that reason, there should be few limitations on how one chooses their gender on their passport. Since passports do not offer a blank field for which to write a distinct response, a third, non-binary identifier provides civilians with the next best equitable option. One US citizen of Colorado, named Zzyym, has experienced long-term legality issues over his passport after handwriting 'intersex' above the binary checkboxes on his application. 'I'm not a problem. I'm a human being. That's the point,' said Zzyym of the incident. Whether it's one's name, eye color, or gender, one should feel their passport accurately represents their identity.

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