The State Department has announced that all U.S. citizens will be able to select a gender neutral option on their passports beginning on April 11 — a win for the millions of people who identify as non-binary, agender, or intersex.
The option, which was announced on the day before Transgender Day of Visibility, will allow passport holders to self-select ‘X’ in addition to male or female, with no further documentation required.
"The addition of a third gender marker propels the U.S. forward toward ensuring that our administrative systems account for the diversity of gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics among U.S. citizens,” U.S. special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights Jessica Stern said at a press conference announcing the change.
This announcement comes as transgender and non-binary kids and their parents fight for their rights in dozens of states across the county — with conservative politicians targeting the LGBTQ+ community by saying gender-affirming care is child abuse, that trans and non-binary kids can’t play sports, and that you shouldn’t even utter the word “gay” in classrooms.
Stern was clear to explain that the change doesn’t represent a political statement or any change in rights — it simply recognizes people for who they are.
“This policy change recognizes the true identity of the passport holder," she said. "The lived realities of transgender, intersex, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming persons reflect that there is a wider spectrum of humanity than is represented by a binary sex designation on passports," Stern said.
The change was the result of a six-year legal battled spearheaded by Lambda Legal, a non-profit organization that helps LGBTQ+ Americans fight for their legal rights. The case centered on Dana Zzyym, an intersex Colorado resident who refused to check M or F. Zzyym, who was born with ambiguous genitalia, uses gender-neutral pronouns.
"I almost burst into tears when I opened the envelope, pulled out my new passport, and saw the 'X' stamped boldly under 'sex,'" Zzyym said in a statement.
"I'm also ecstatic that other intersex and nonbinary U.S. citizens will soon be able to apply for passports with the correct gender marker. 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,” they continued.
With this change to the passport policy, the United States joins a growing number of nations that already offers a third option, including Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and India.
This is a big step for trans and non-binary U.S. residents, who often struggle to obtain identification that accurately reflects who they are and how they identify. For example, state laws vary regarding how drivers may identify on their licenses, with 22 states allowing an ‘X’ gender option. Still, many states don’t, and some require medical documentation of sex change, red tape, and money before they’ll allow changes.