Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Wednesday, June 30, that the state department would soon introduce a third gender marker or option on U.S. passports, allowing people who identify as nonbinary, intersex or gender-nonconforming an alternative to the standard “M” or “F” they were previously forced to choose between.
Blinken called the change one more step in the current administration’s efforts to ensure “the fair treatment of LGBTQI+ U.S. citizens, regardless of their gender or sex.”
However, as Laurel Wamsley of NPR reported, the process will be complicated for the government and may take some time to officially roll out.
“The process of adding a gender marker for nonbinary, intersex and gender-nonconforming persons to these documents is technologically complex and will take time for extensive systems updates,” Blinken said.
According to Wamsley, the State Department will be working closely with interagency partners to “make sure the travel experience is as smooth as possible for the passport holder.”
Blinken added that the U.S. was currently consulting with “like-minded governments” that have undertaken similar reform efforts with their identification documents.
Civil rights organization Lambda Legal called the announcement a victory for its client, Dana Zzyym, who has been fighting the U.S. government in court for years in a still-ongoing legal effort to end the use of strictly male and female gender markers on official government documents.
Although the organization said it was pleased by the announcement and the ongoing effort by President Biden to ensure greater equity and inclusion for all LGBTQ individuals, Lambda was still disappointed that a definite start date for the new policy to take effect had yet to be determined.
Wamsley reported that “the ACLU has also pushed for the Biden administration to issue transgender, intersex, and nonbinary people accurate federal IDs.”
Zzyym, who is intersex and nonbinary and lives in Colorado, where nonbinary driver’s licenses are already available, told NPR that the news was a welcome relief.
“It’s great news for all intersex and nonbinary people because it basically says that we can get our passports,” Zzyym said. “We don’t have to lie to get our passports. We can just be ourselves.”
A number of countries, including Canada, Australia, India, Malta, Nepal and New Zealand, have already introduced nonbinary gender markers on their official government passports, with “X” being the most common third option.