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Biden State Dept. issues first ‘X’ gender marker on US passport

Passport (Max Pixel/Released)
October 27, 2021

The U.S. State Department announced on Wednesday that it has issued its first-ever U.S. passport that provides an X-gender designation, rather than the traditional male and female sex designation.

“The Department has issued the first U.S. passport with an X gender marker,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

The department, under President Joe Biden’s leadership, intends for the X gender designation to accommodate non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons. The department said the X gender designation is available on both U.S. passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBAs), which are used to document children born to U.S. citizens abroad are U.S. citizens at birth.

The issuance of this X-gendered passport is in line with a plan Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in June, to make changes to U.S. passports and CBRAs, to accommodate different gender identities.

“The Department is taking these steps after considerable consultation with like-minded governments who have undertaken similar changes,” Blinken said in June. “We also value our continued engagement with the LGBTQI+ community, which will inform our approach and positions moving forward. With this action, I express our enduring commitment to the LGBTQI+ community today and moving forward.”

The department said it will move forward with its full rollout of X-gendered passports and CBRAs next year.

“We look forward to offering this option to all routine passport applicants once we complete the required system and form updates in early 2022,” Price said.

“The Department also continues to work closely with other U.S. government agencies to ensure as smooth a travel experience as possible for all passport holders, regardless of their gender identity,” Price added. “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.”

The Associated Press reported Jessica Stern, the U.S. special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, called the moves historic and praised it as a way to make government documents reflect the “lived reality” of non-binary, intersex and gender non-conforming individuals.

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

According to the Associated Press, the State Department’s move to issue documents with the new X-gender designation comes after Dana Zzyym, an intersex activist began a legal battle with the State Department in 2015, after being denied a passport for failing to check a male or female sex designation. According to court documents, Zzyym wrote “intersex” above the boxes marked “M” and “F” and requested the form include an “X” gender marker.

Zzyym was born with ambiguous physical sexual characteristics and was raised as a boy. Zzyym underwent several surgeries that, according to court documents, failed to make Zzyym appear fully male. Zzyym served in the Navy under a male sex marker but later came to identify as intersex and become an intersex activist.

Zzyym has brought the case against the State Department on the grounds that its decision to deny Zzyym a passport, based on its prior policy to adhere to the male and female sex markers on its forms, prevented Zzyym from being able to travel to a meeting of Organization Intersex International in Mexico.