American federal documents are about to get a lot more inclusive soon. On Thursday, March 31, the State Department announced that Americans applying for a U.S. passport would be able to choose their gender as “X,” beginning April 11. Applicants will be permitted to select this even if it does not match the information on their birth certificate.
Per CBS, this action is designed to recognize a person’s self-identity and is a step forward for transgender, intersex, nonbinary, and non-conforming gender individuals. The date of the announcement was significant as March 31 is the International Transgender Day of Visibility.
“We’re setting a precedent as the first U.S. federal government agency to offer the ‘X’ gender marker on an identity document,” said Douglass Benning, principal deputy assistant secretary for consular affairs at the State Department.
Jessica Stern, U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) Persons, noted, “The ‘X’ means unspecified or another gender identity. The provision of an ‘X’ gender marker option is important because human beings do not always fit within a male or female category around the world.”
Other services will follow this precedent. Beginning late 2023, other State Department documents will also offer the “X” marker, such as passport cards and reports of birth abroad. In Thursday’s press release, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken stated, “The Department of State has reached another milestone in our work to better serve all U.S. citizens, regardless of their gender identity.”
The State Department considered this change after Dana Zzyym filed a federal lawsuit in 2016. The intersex and nonbinary Navy veteran filed the lawsuit after spending years lobbying the State Department to offer an “X” marker on passport applications. Zzyym received the first passport of its kind in October of 2021.
To comply with this new designation, the TSA will implement gender-neutral screening procedures to limit false alarms and invasive pat-downs. “Our goal is to touch less and rely on the technology,” said Jose Bonilla, executive director of traveler engagement at the TSA’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
TSA pre-check enrollees will also have the option to pick an “X” gender marker during the application process. This is another victory for LGBTQ advocates who have been fighting for updated screening procedures as the current ones affect the transgender community disproportionately.