US to add new gender option on passports

Washington: The US government on Wednesday (local time) said that it will add a new gender option on US passports.

Transgender Americans can now more easily change the sex marker on their US passports, the State Department announced, promising to unveil more gender-inclusive changes to passport applications in the future, reported CNN.

The department said in a statement that it will be updating its procedures to allow applicants to self-select their sex marker for passports and that it “will no longer require medical certification” if an applicant’s self-selected sex marker doesn’t match the sex listed on other official identity documents.

 The statement went on to say that the department was working “towards adding a gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons applying for a passport or (a consular report of birth abroad),” a move that means applicants will in the future be able to mark something other than “M” or “F.” The department stressed that the process of adding a new marker “is technologically complex and will take time for extensive systems updates.”

The announcement, which was made on the final day of Pride Month, an annual celebration of the LGBTQ community that takes place throughout June, means that the US will soon join a host of other countries with similar gender-inclusive passport policies, including Canada, Argentina, Australia, Denmark, Iceland, Nepal, and New Zealand, reported CNN.

 President Joe Biden had said during his presidential campaign that he supported such changes, which are now the latest pro-LGBTQ policies his administration has announced in recent months, including several policy changes aimed at protecting members of the transgender community from discrimination.

 President Joe Biden has made clear his administration’s commitment to placing importance on diversity.

 He appointed Pete Buttigieg as secretary of transportation. Buttigieg is the first US Cabinet Secretary to be openly gay. LGBTQ advocates applauded the State Department’s move with a leader at the National Center for Transgender Equality saying that “having accurate passports and consistent ID is critical to daily life.”

“It’s necessary for travel, banking, starting a new job and school. Inaccurate IDs open transgender people up to harassment and discrimination,” Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, the group’s deputy executive director, said in a statement.

 “Reforming US passports is a common-sense way to improve the lives of transgender people”, reported CNN.

At least 20 states and Washington, DC, have also implemented similar changes to state documentation, including New Jersey, which enacted the change in April after delaying it last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.