From this week, Canadians will have the option of marking their gender as X on their passports.

The third category joins M and F, allowing Canadians of non-binary sex or gender to record their identity as “unspecified” on their passports, The New York Times has reported.

Ahmed Hussen, the country’s minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said the move was intended to advance “equality for all Canadians regardless of gender identity or expression”.

Announcing the change, the Canadian immigration department said Canadians have the right to be identified by the gender of their choice.

The new passport option is part of Canada’s movement toward better rights for trans people.

Earlier this year, a law was passed amending the Human Rights Act to include protection from discrimination  based on gender expression or trans status.

Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a specialist adviser to coordinate government efforts to promote LGBTI equality.

At least eight other countries, including Australia, offer a third option for gender or sex on passports or national identification cards.

The Australian Passport Office website describes the X option as “indeterminate/intersex/unspecified” sex. It is only available to people who are intersex or of “indeterminate sex”, not to other non-binary people.

The Australian Passport Office warns people with an X gender marker on their passports that they may “encounter difficulties” when travelling to other countries because X is new and infrequently used.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade cannot guarantee that a passport showing X in the sex field will be accepted for entry or transit by another country,” the website reads.

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