DENVER — The United States has issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation, marking a milestone in the recognition of the rights of people who do not identify as male or female, and expects to be able to offer the option more broadly next year, the State Department said Wednesday.
The department did not identify the passport recipient, but an intersex person from Colorado who has been in a legal battle with the government since 2015 to get a passport said one was received. A department official, citing privacy rules, declined to confirm whether the passport went to Dana Zzyym (pronounced Zimm).
Zzyym said the fight for the passport with an accurate gender designation was a way to help the next generation of intersex people win recognition as full citizens with rights.
“I’m not a problem. I’m a human being. That’s the point,” Zzyym said.
Recognizing the Human Spectrum
The U.S. special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, Jessica Stern, said the decision brings the government documents in line with the “lived reality” that there is 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.
Zzyym 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.
Zzyym was born with ambiguous physical sexual characteristics but was raised as a boy and had 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. The State Department’s denial of Zzyym’s passport prevented Zzyym from being able to travel to a meeting of Organization Intersex International in Mexico.
The department said in June that it was moving toward adding a third gender marker for nonbinary, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people but that would take time because of required updates to its computer systems. In addition, a department official said the passport application and system update with the “X” designation option still awaited approval from the Office of Management and Budget, which signs off on all government forms.
State Department Allows Applicants to Self-Identify
The department now also allows applicants to self-select their gender as male or female, no longer requiring them to provide medical certification if their gender did not match that listed on their other identification documents.
The United States joins a handful of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, and Canada, in allowing its citizens to designate a gender other than male or female on passports.
Stern said her office planned to talk about the U.S. experience with the change in its interactions around the world and hopes that might help inspire other governments to offer the option.
“We see this as a way of affirming and uplifting the human rights of trans and intersex and gender-nonconforming and nonbinary people everywhere,” she said.