Special LGBTQ rights envoy celebrates ‘significant step’
Michael K. Lavers | Washington Blade
Courtesy LGBT Media Association
The State Department on Wednesday is expected to issue the first U.S. passport with an “X” gender marker.
Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad, on Tuesday told the Washington Blade and the Associated Press during a conference call the State Department will initially issue a gender-neutral passport to one person.
Stern said the State Department will begin “offering the ‘X’ gender marker option to routine passport applicants” in early 2022. A State Department official said the delay is necessary because the U.S. Office of Management and Budget needs to approve “the required form updates.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June announced the State Department will allow passport applicants to “self-select their gender as ‘M’ or ‘F’”
People who identify as intersex, non-binary or gender non-conforming can choose a gender-neutral gender marker for their passports and Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a document that confirms an American who was born overseas is a U.S. citizen. The new policy that Blinken announced in June no longer requires “medical certification if an applicant’s self-selected gender does not match the gender on their other citizenship or identity documents.”
“Offering a third gender marker is a significant step towards ensuring that our administrative systems account for the diversity of gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics,” said Stern during the conference call. “Because people do not always fit within a male or a female designation, it doesn’t benefit anyone to have inconsistencies between people and systems.”
Stern added passports with an “X” gender marker will “reflect the true gender of the passport holder and make people safer, hopefully by reducing the likelihood of dehumanizing harassment and mistreatment that so often happens at border crossings when a person’s legal documentation does not correspond with their gender expression.”
“When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect,” said Stern.
The State Department’s announcement comes a day after it publicly acknowledged Intersex Awareness Day, which commemorates the world’s first-ever intersex rights protect that took place in Boston in 1996.
Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as non-binary, in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with an “X” gender marker. The State Department official with whom the Blade spoke on Tuesday declined to say whether Zzyym is the first person who will receive a gender-neutral passport in the U.S.
“The department does not generally comment on individual passport applications due to privacy considerations,” said the official.
President Biden in February signed a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.
The White House in June named Stern, who had previously been the executive director of OutRight Action International, a global LGBTQ advocacy group, to her position. Stern said the issuance of passports with “X” gender markers demonstrates the Biden administration’s commitment to LGBTQ rights.
“I am proud that the United States seeks to protect and promote the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons globally and this is an excellent example of leading by example,” said Stern.
Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina are among the handful of other countries that issue gender-neutral passports.
The State Department official said their colleagues have “been coordinating with Canada and New Zealand on best practices as we work towards this goal, based on their experiences.” They said the State Department has also “coordinated with several LGBTQI+ organizations, both directly and through the White House Domestic Policy Council, throughout this process.”