Nepal's New Passport Gender Option: O

M and F are no longer the only choices
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2015 12:03 PM CDT
Nepal's New Passport Gender Option: O
A member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community waves a gay pride flag during the opening ceremony of the 1st South Asian LGBT Games organized by Blue Diamond Society in Katmandu, Nepal, Friday, Oct. 12.   (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

For a brief moment at least, Monica Shahi has a passport unlike anyone else's in all of Nepal: one that lists Shahi's gender as "O." Shahi today became the country's first citizen to receive a passport that doesn't designate Shahi's sex as male or female but as "other." Human Rights Watch reports that the groundwork was laid in 2007, when the country's Supreme Court determined that an individual's legal gender should be based on "self-feeling" and shouldn't be constrained to the traditional male or female options. Nepalese activists have since fought to bring a third transgender category to everything from legal documents to public restrooms, and Shahi's passport signifies a big success.

The International Business Times reports that while Shahi called it an "important and significant day," Shahi expressed "hurt that neither the prime minister nor the foreign minister agreed to hand me the passport. We made history today but our top leaders didn't want to be a part of it." As for that history, Nepal now becomes at least the seventh country to acknowledge more than two genders in some fashion, the others being Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Malta, New Zealand, and Australia, per HRW. As for the US, New York magazine notes that male and female remain the only passport options, and changing from one to the other is an involved process that requires, per the State Department, the submission of "a physician certificate with your application that validates whether your gender transition is in process or complete." (More transgender stories.)

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