Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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U.S. Issues First Passport With Third Gender Option

A person holding a passport

The U.S. government has issued the first U.S. passport with an X gender marker, the State Department announced Wednesday.

“The Department of State continues the process of updating its policies regarding gender markers on U.S. passports … to better serve all U.S. citizens, regardless of their gender identity,” spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “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 that the X marker option will be available to passport applicants in early 2022.

Wednesday's news follows an announcement in June that a third gender marker besides male or female would be available for nonbinary, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people.

Jessica Stern, the U.S. special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ+ rights said it was a celebratory announcement and that it covers the “lived reality” of people.

“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.

An official declined to say if the passport went to Dana Zzyym, an intersex and nonbinary U.S. Navy veteran in Colorado who had sued the Department of State for only offering a male or female choice on the passport application. But Lambda Legal, which is representing Zzyym, has announced Zzyym was indeed the recipient.

“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 Lambda Legal press release. “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.”

Zzyym filed suit in 2015, hoping for a change in the policy. Both trial and appeals courts ruled that the State Department must reconsider Zzyym's application.  Zzyym is now associate director for Intersex Campaign for Equality and has been invited to attend several international intersex conferences but was unable to attend because they did not have a valid passport. 

The U.S. joins countries including Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand, and Pakistan that allow for a third gender option on their passports.

Stern said she would use this move to possibly inspire other countries to follow suit, reported the AP. “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 explained.

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