U.S. Issues Passport With 'X' Gender Designation, May Offer Option More Broadly Next Year

The U.S. Department of State announced on Wednesday that it had issued the first U.S. passport with an "X" gender marker, which offers a third option for passport holders who do not identify as female or male. The new option is expected to be offered more routinely beginning in early 2022, the Associated Press reported.

"The Department of State continues the process of updating its policies regarding gender markers on U.S. passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBAs) to better serve all U.S. citizens, regardless of their gender identity," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

"I want to reiterate, on the occasion of this passport issuance, the Department of State's commitment to promoting the freedom, dignity, and equality of all people—including LGBTQI+ persons," Price added.

The State Department announced in June that it was working on providing a third gender marker for nonbinary, intersex and gender-nonconforming people. At that time, the department noted extensive updates to its computer systems would have to be done to allow for the new designation.

The Office of Management and Budget still needs to approve the passport application and system update with the "X" designation option, according to a department official.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Passport
The State Department announced on Wednesday that the United States has issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation. AP Photo/Eileen Putman

The U.S. special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, Jessica Stern, called the moves historic and celebratory, saying they bring the government documents in line with the "lived reality" that there is a wider spectrum of human sex characteristics than is reflected in the previous two designations.

"When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect," Stern said.

The department did not identify the passport recipient, but Dana Zzyym of Fort Collins, Colorado, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview it was their passport. Zzyym, who prefers a gender-neutral pronoun, has been in a legal battle with the government since 2015 over a passport.

Zzyym (pronounced Zimm) said the fight for the passport with an accurate gender designation was a way to help the next generation of intersex people win recognition as full citizens with rights.

"I'm not a problem. I'm a human being. That's the point," Zzyym said.

Zzyym was denied a passport for failing to check male or female 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 sexual characteristics but was raised as a boy and underwent several surgeries that failed to make Zzyym appear fully male, according to court filings. Zzyym served in the Navy as a male but later came to identify as intersex while working and studying at Colorado State University. The department's denial of Zzyym's passport prevented Zzyym from being able to travel to a meeting of Organization Intersex International in Mexico.

The department now also allows applicants to self-select their gender as male or female, no longer requiring them to provide medical certification if their gender did not match that listed on their other identification documents.

The United States joins a handful of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Nepal and Canada, in allowing its citizens to designate a gender other than male or female on their passports.

Stern said her office planned to talk about the United States' experience with the change in its interactions around the world and she hopes that might help inspire other governments to offer the option.

"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.