Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, traveling was a simple pursuit – but not for all. For many, traveling has always been met with discrimination and unnecessary force or violence. Gender identity alone affects LGBTQ individuals differently when it comes to their treatment in airports and even when obtaining passports.
According to a press release from Lambda Legal, a national non-profit dedicated to the full legal recognition of LGBTQ people, the U.S. State department plans to unveil “a new U.S. passport gender marker policy and is working towards adding an ‘X’ gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming applicants.”
The Passport Office will not require medical certification to change the gender on an individual’s passport. It will be enough for an individual to now simply say how they identify in order to get the “X” marker.
This mission was sparked by activist and U.S. Navy Veteran Dana Zzyym, who is intersex and nonbinary. Zzyym is one of many who had been forced to conform to a gender identity that doesn’t represent who they are for documentation. If they choose not to conform, they may be left to go without commodities such as traveling.
“I’ve been at this fight for so long,” Zzyym said. “I am optimistic that, with the incredible support and work of Lambda Legal and the Intersex Campaign for Equality, I will soon receive an accurate passport. One that reflects who I truly am; and that will allow for me to present in person at the several international conferences to which I’ve been invited to present on issues confronting intersex people.”
With the policy change, the United States joins at least ten other countries that issue passports with gender markers other than “F” (female) or “M” (male), including Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, Germany, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand, and Pakistan.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the technology behind these documents is complex, so the State Department will need time to update its systems.
“The Department has begun moving towards adding a gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons applying for a passport or CRBA,” Blinken said. “We are evaluating the best approach to achieve this goal. The process of adding a gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons to these documents is technologically complex and will take time for extensive systems updates.”
It is inevitable that this new policy will be met with opposition from leaders, members of society and likely continued discrimination when individuals travel with “X” gender passports. Therefore, it is essential that this policy is backed by proper training and education for workers and the greater community, so that further instances of abuse can be avoided.
While there is no concrete date for this policy to be established, many are hopeful that the change is in reach.