State department to allow third gender on travel documents
For the first time, the US federal government will allow transgender and intersex people to identify as a third gender on travel documents without needing medical documents as proof.
The interim policy of the State Department will allow them to get IDs and passports with an “X” gender marker instead of an “M” or “F” by the end of this year.
What’s more, this policy removes the requirement for transgender people to provide proof of gender transition from a doctor, which would allow them to self identify.
An announcement on the State Department website said, “We are working to add a gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons as soon as possible.”
Documents to identify as third gender
This new rule is a substantial change for federal documents for transgender people. The previous substantial change happened in 2010, when the Obama administration allowed transgender people to update their passports.
This change is also a fulfillment of President Joe Biden’s campaign promise, following months of advocacy by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and LGBTQ groups.
Inaccurate identification in documents bars transgender people from traveling and completing job applications.
At the state level, twenty states and Washington, DC have already issued IDs with “X” markers. What’s more, Illinois, Indiana, and New York have passed laws that allow gender neutral IDs.
However, many transgender, nonbinary, and intersex people still have licenses that list their gender as “X” but have passports that say “M” or “F.”
Problems encountered with identification
A 2015 US Trans Survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 46 percent or almost half of transgender and nonbinary people in the US don’t have IDs that list their correct name or gender.
Because of this, they are vulnerable to violence or discrimination every time they use an ID when traveling, interacting with the police, transacting with a bank, or voting.
Experts have said that removing gender markers from passports is impossible due to international travel requirements.
However, Arli Christian, a campaign strategist with the ACLU, said, “Improved access to accurate passports will have such a profound impact on the lives of trans, intersex and nonbinary folks across the country.”
“But the work doesn’t stop here. We will keep working with the administration to make sure we see these important changes to gender change policies across all federal agencies,” Christian said.
State Department to fulfill Biden’s promise
State Secretary Antony Blinken said this move is part of “further steps toward ensuring the fair treatment of LGBTQI+ US citizens, regardless of their gender or sex.”
However, he warned that creating this option on passports will take some time and people can’t yet apply for a passport with a nonbinary, intersex, or gender nonconforming gender marker.
“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,” Blinken said.
He further said that the US consulted with “like-minded governments” that had undertaken similar changes.
Among countries that issue passports with other gender markers aside from “M” or “F” are Canada, Malta, Australia, Nepal, New Zealand, and India.