US issues first gender-neutral passport

The US State Department announced Wednesday it had issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation in lieu of male or female for those who do not identify as either one.

The State Department expects to be able to offer the option more broadly next year on passports and birth certificates of US citizens born abroad.

In June, the State Department announced it was working on adding a third gender option for the nonbinary, intersex and gender-nonconforming individuals but noted it would take time as it required extensive technological upgrades to existing computer systems.

While a first passport has been issued, the passport application and system update will still need to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget which approves all government forms prior to their issuance.  The State Department hopes by early next year to have the option widely available.

The State Department also announced it would no longer require medical certification for those opting for a gender option that differs from other existing documents such as a driver’s license or birth certificate.

Jessica Stern, the department’s special envoy for LGBTQ rights, called the move historic and celebratory and in line with people’s “lived reality.”

“When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect,” she told AP.

President Joe Biden had vowed to make LGBTQ rights a major priority of his administration. The move is a policy shift from Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s predecessor Mike Pompeo who forbade US embassies from flying the rainbow pride flag.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “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.”

The State Department made the announcement on Intersex Awareness Day.

According to the London-based Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion, 11 other countries already offer the option including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan. – AFP.

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