The US State Department announced on Wednesday that it had issued the first American passport with an ‘X’ gender marker. Dana Zzyym, a US Navy veteran, and the associate director for the Intersex  Campaign for Equality, was identified by Lambda Legal as their client who  was the recipient of the passport. 

The move gives people who  identify as nonbinary, intersex and gender-nonconforming the ability to no  longer have to identify as male or female on their passport. 

“We look forward to offering this option to all routine passport applicants once we complete the required system and form updates in early 2022,” State  Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. 

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 “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. 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  LGBTQI+ persons,” Price said. 

US Navy Veteran Is The First Recipient

The policy change brings the US into line with at least 15 other countries,  including Argentina, Austria, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark,  Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan,  India and Nepal, which allow people to be identified as a third gender or as a  legally recognized non-binary person. 

“I almost burst into tears when I opened the envelope, pulled out my new  passport, and saw the ‘X’ stamped boldly under ‘sex,’” Zzyym said a  statement.

“I’m also ecstatic that other intersex and nonbinary US citizens will  soon be able to apply for passports with the correct gender marker. It took six  years, but to have an accurate passport, one that doesn’t force me to identify  as male or female but recognizes I am neither, is liberating.”  

“I’ve been at this fight for more than a decade,” Zzyym said. “But, with the  incredible support and work of Lambda Legal and the Intersex Campaign for  Equality, I have a passport that reflects who I truly am; and that will allow for  me to attend international conferences in person to continue fighting for the  rights of intersex people.” 

Gender Neutral Passports

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In a press statement, Mary Emily O’Hara, the Rapid Response Manager for  GLAAD said, “Intersex, nonbinary, and transgender people need identity  documents that accurately reflect who we are, and having mismatched  documents can create problems with safety and visibility.” 

“Dana Zzyym’s long fight has culminated in a victory for so many people who  simply want to travel through the world as their authentic selves. Today, the  US finally catches up with other countries around the world that have already  seen gender-neutral passports in use for years, and that’s something to  celebrate,” O’Hara said.

“This is a momentous day and its significance cannot be understated,” said  Paul D. Castillo, the Legal Counsel for Lambda in a statement.

“Dana Zzyym, who uses the gender-neutral pronouns ‘they,’ ‘them’ and ‘their,’  was born with ambiguous sex characteristics,” Lambda said in a statement. 

“After their parents decided to raise them as a boy, Dana underwent several  irreversible, painful and medically unnecessary surgeries that didn’t work,  traumatized Dana and left them with severe scarring. Many years later, after  serving six years in the US Navy and then attending Colorado State  University, Dana began researching surgeries and came to understand they  had been born intersex.” 

“After a six year legal battle with three favorable court rulings, Dana has finally received  an accurate US passport. They showed incredible courage and perseverance  throughout the case. We couldn’t be more delighted, both for Dana and, as  important, for all intersex, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming United  States’ passport applicants who will soon have access to the accurate  passports they need.” 

Only 20 US States Allow People To Choose ‘X’ Gender Marker

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken first announced the policy change in  June, saying, “The Department has begun moving towards adding a gender  marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons applying  for a passport or CRBA. We are evaluating the best approach to achieve this  goal. 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.”  

“The Department will also be working closely with its interagency partners to  ensure as smooth a travel experience as possible for the passport holder,”  Blinken said. 

Currently, only 20 US states allow for people to choose an X marker to  represent their gender identity on their drivers licences. Prior to the policy change for passports, those with an X on their drivers licence could not get a  passport which matched their gender as shown on their state identification. 

Kimberley Zieselman, the Executive Director for InterACT, in a statement,  said, ”On behalf of interACT, congratulations to Dana for their tireless  advocacy and commitment to ensuring Americans with nonbinary gender  identities, including some intersex people, now have the option to be  authentically identified in passports and hopefully other federal documents.” 

Advocacy group InterACT defines an intersex person as “people have one or  more physical sex characteristics that don’t align with what is considered  either a typical ‘male’ or ‘female’ body. Being intersex means there are ‘many  possible differences in genitalia, hormones, internal anatomy, or  chromosomes, compared to the usual two ways that human bodies develop.’” 

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