Respect Diversity + Inclusion

Nearly 17K Americans may request gender ‘X’ passport this year

The new gender designation will be available on U.S. passports beginning April 11.
A passport belonging to Dana Zzyym, who prefers a gender-neutral pronoun, rests on a table, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, in Fort Collins, Colo. (Thomas Peipert/Associated Press)

Story at a glance

  • An estimated 16,700 U.S. residents are expected to request passports with an “X” gender designation this year, according to a Williams Institute analysis.

  • Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia allow residents to select an ‘X’ gender marker for their driver’s licenses.

  • The study did not account for changes in demand over time, and demand in the first year of implementation could be higher because of pent-up interest or lower because of lack of knowledge of the new gender marker’s availability.

Demand for passports with an “X” gender designation could spike once the option is made widely available beginning this month, according to a new report by the Williams Institute, an LGBTQ+ public policy think tank, with nearly 17,000 of the nation’s more than 1 million nonbinary LGBTQ+ residents expected to request an official gender-neutral identity document from the state department.

An estimated 16,700 people will request an “X” gender marker on their passports this year, according to the Williams Institute, representing roughly 1.4 percent of the country’s nonbinary LGBTQ+ population.

Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia allow residents to select an ‘X’ gender marker for their driver’s licenses, an option that has been relatively popular among individuals identifying as neither male nor female.

In Vermont, more than 30 percent of the state’s nonbinary LGBTQ+ population has requested gender-neutral driver’s licenses, meaning nearly 13 percent will likely request an “X” gender designation on their passports, according to the Williams Institute. In Virginia, which issues the largest number of “X” gender driver’s licenses per year, just 3 percent of nonbinary LGBTQ+ people are expected to request a gender-neutral passport.

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Demand for a passport with an “X” gender marker could be lower in states which already offer the option for driver’s licenses, according to the Williams Institute, because nonbinary LGBTQ+ people already have at least one identity document which accurately reflects their gender.

Accurate identity documents can be critical to to the health and safety of nonbinary, gender-nonconforming and transgender people, and inaccurate IDs have been associated with higher rates of harassment and discrimination. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, nearly a third of trans people who presented an identity document with a name or gender inconsistent with their perceived gender reported being harassed, assaulted or discriminated against.

Other research has found that individuals are more likely to be questioned by agents with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) if the gender marker on their passport is incorrect, making it more difficult to navigate public spaces like security checkpoints.

TSA last week said it was working to add an “X” gender designation to its TSA PreCheck application and expects the gender-neutral option to be available by the end of the year.

The new “X” gender marker on U.S. passports will be available beginning April 11, the state department said last week, adding that the option will also be available for other forms of documentation sometime next year.

The Williams Institute identified a number of limitations in its analysis, including that it was unable to make estimates reflecting demand over time. Demand for an “X” gender marker could be higher in the first year of implementation because of pent-up interest, but demand could also be subdued in the first 12 months because a large percentage of nonbinary LGBTQ+ Americans may not realize the option is available.

The study also did not account for changes in future demand, which is likely given younger age groups are more likely than older generations to identify as nonbinary.