(DENVER) — The United States has issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation—a milestone in the recognition of the rights of people who don’t identify as male or female—and expects to be able to offer the option more broadly next year, the State Department said Wednesday.
The U.S.’ special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, Jessica Stern, called the moves historic and celebratory, saying they bring the government documents in line with the “lived reality” that there is a wider spectrum of human sex characteristics than is reflected in the previous two designations.
“When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect,” Stern said.
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It was not disclosed to who the passport had been issued by the department. An official from the department declined to confirm that the passport was issued for Dana Zzym. Dana Zzym is an intersex Colorado resident. The department doesn’t usually talk about individual passport applications due to privacy concerns.
Zzyym was pronounced Zimm and denied a passport. He failed to confirm whether the application had been made by either male or female. According to court documents, Zzyym wrote “intersex” above the boxes marked “M” and “F” and requested an “X” gender marker instead in a separate letter.
Court filings reveal that Zzym was born with unspecified sexual characteristics, but was raised in a family of boys. Zzyym, a Navy male, later became intersex after he studied at Colorado State University. The department’s denial of Zzyym’s passport prevented Zzyym from being able to travel to a meeting of Organization Intersex International in Mexico.
Although the State Department had announced that it was working towards adding a third marker for gender nonbinary, transgender and gender-nonconforming persons in June, it stated it would be slow because of extensive upgrades to its computer systems. A department official said the passport application and system update with the “X” designation option still need to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget, which approves all government forms, before they can be issued.
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The department allows applicants to choose their gender, male or female. Applicants no longer need to present medical certificates if the gender they are applying for is not listed in their identification documents.
United States is joining a few countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Nepal that allow citizens to identify a different gender on passports.
Stern said her office planned to talk about the U.S.’ experience with the change in its interactions around the world and she hopes that might help inspire other governments to offer the option.
“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 said.
APThis report was contributed by Matthew Lee, a Washington diplomat.