Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the option in June for people applying for a US passport or Consular Reports of Birth Abroad. The option is expected to be more widely available next year.
“We look forward to offering this option to all routine passport applicants once we complete the required system and form updates in early 2022,” department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement on 27 October.
The department “also continues to work closely with other US government agencies to ensure as smooth a travel experience as possible for all passport holders, regardless of their gender identity,” his statement said.
“I want to reiterate, on the occasion of this passport issuance, the Department of State’s commitment to promoting the freedom, dignity, and equality of all people – including [LGBT+] persons,” Mr Price added.
Jessica Stern, who was appointed by President Joe Biden to serve as US special envoy to advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons at the Department of State, told reporters that 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.”
“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,” she said.
Ms Stern said that the option 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,” she said.
The State Department will no longer require “medical certification if an applicant’s self-selected gender does not match the gender on their other citizenship or identity documents,” the agency announced as part of its new passport guidance.
Officials declined to discuss whether the “x” gender passport was for an intersex US Navy veteran who filed a federal lawsuit in 2015 after their application was denied.
The agency’s announcement on Wednesday also follows its recognition of Intersex Awareness Day, which commemorates the world’s first-ever intersex rights protest held in Boston in 1996.
It also comes as a legal battle continues in Oklahoma to allow residents to designate themselves as nonbinary on their birth certificates.
Following a 2020 lawsuit against state officials over birth certificate markers, the Oklahoma State Department of Health and office of the state attorney general reached a settlement in May and began its formal process for an agreement this month.
In a statement last week, Republican Governor Kevin Stitt said he believes that “people are created by God to be male or female. Period” and that “there is no such thing as nonbinary sex” as he pledged to take “whatever action necessary to protect Oklahoma values and our way of life”.
GOP leaders in the state’s House and Senate also called on lawmakers to reverse the directive.
Their statements have faced widespread condemnation from LGBT+ organisations and advocates, including a nonbinary state lawmaker, the nation’s first openly nonbinary elected state official.
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