On June 30th, the last day of Pride month, the US State Department announced it plans to make travel easier for transgender and non-binary people by enabling them to select the gender marker they would like displayed on their passports, and the offer of a third gender option in the future.
1. New option to self select gender
According to the U.S. government’s new policy travellers will no longer be required to provide medical certification should they want to change their gender and will be able to self-select either Male or Female on the appropriate forms. For existing passport holders it will be possible to request a new passport with a different gender marker, and new applicants will be able to choose their marker when they apply for their first passport. The State Department is also phasing out limited-validity passports, which previously were given to travellers who were in the process of transitioning, as they weren’t allowed to receive a usual passport.
We are promoting the freedom, dignity, and equality of all people – including LGBTQI+ persons. @TravelGov Acting Assistant Secretary Brownlee discusses proposed updates to our procedures for issuing official documents including U.S. passports. Learn more: https://t.co/9Z6f0nVYMs. pic.twitter.com/ONmOTLbasX— Department of State (@StateDept) June 30, 2021
2. Third gender option to be added
Although a third gender option is not available yet, the State Department says it is working on a gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and others who don’t conform to traditional gender roles. However it is still unsure when this option will be available and the State Department writes that, “The process of adding a gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons to these documents is complex and will take time.”
Mary Emily O’Hara is a spokesperson for GLAAD, an American non-governmental media monitoring organisation which fights against defamatory coverage of LGBTQ people. Speaking to The New York Times, O’Hara told how they live in a state that allows for an X gender marker and found it confusing to have a government issued-ID that didn’t match their passport. ‘I’m honestly not sure whether I would be breaking the law’ O’Hara told the paper, noting that it’s been years since they’ve left the U.S. but are now considering a trip to Costa Rica.
The State Department also took another step forward in specifying that the gender on a traveller’s passport doesn’t have to match that on other documents, but that photos submitted for passports should look similar to those submitted for other documents.