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'X' Marks US Passport in a Big First

United States has issued one with 'X' gender designation instead of 'male' or 'female'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 27, 2021 12:31 PM CDT
'X' Marks US Passport in a Big First
This May 25, 2021, file photo shows a US Passport cover in Washington.   (AP Photo/Eileen Putman)

(Newser) – The US has issued its first passport with an "X" gender designation—a milestone in the recognition of the rights of people who don't identify as male or female—and expects to be able to offer the option more broadly next year, the State Department said Wednesday. The US special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, Jessica Stern, called the move historic and celebratory, saying it brings the government documents in line with the "lived reality" that there's a wider spectrum of human sex characteristics than is reflected in the previous two designations. "When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect," Stern said, per the AP.

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The department didn't announce to whom the passport was issued. Citing privacy concerns, a department official declined to say whether it was for Dana Zzyym, an intersex Colorado resident who has been in a legal battle with the department since 2015. Zzyym was born with ambiguous physical sexual characteristics but was raised as a boy and underwent several surgeries that failed to make Zzyym appear fully male, according to court filings. Zzyym served in the Navy as a male but later came to identify as intersex while working and studying at Colorado State University. Zzyym (pronounced "Zimm") was denied a passport for failing to check male or female on an application.

According to court documents, Zzyym wrote "intersex" above the boxes marked "M" and "F" and requested an "X" gender marker instead in a separate letter. The State Department announced in June that it was moving toward adding a third gender marker but said it would take time because it required extensive updates to its computer systems. A department official said the passport application and system update with the "X" designation option still need to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget before they can be issued. A handful of other countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, and Canada, allow its citizens to designate a gender other than male or female on their passports.

(Read more passport stories.)

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