Gender requirements relaxed for US passports

The State Department is making U.S. passports more inclusive for gender-fluid individuals, part of efforts to promote civil rights and as Pride Month comes to a close.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Wednesday that U.S. passport holders will be able to choose their gender as male or female without having to show documentation of their assigned gender at birth.

The State Department is further looking at options to add a new symbol under the gender category for “non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming” individuals for documents related to U.S. passports or consular reports of births abroad. 

“The Department of State is committed to promoting the freedom, dignity, and equality of all people – including LGBTQI+ persons,” Blinken said in a statement announcing the change. 

“Today, I am pleased to announce that the Department will be taking further steps toward ensuring the fair treatment of LGBTQI+ U.S. citizens, regardless of their gender or sex,” he said.

The change in documentation is taking place immediately, Blinken said. An individual “will no longer require medical certification if an applicant’s self-selected gender” on a passport “does not match the gender on their other citizenship or identity documents,” the secretary said.

More consultations are needed on the decision for a neutral symbol of the gender category. Advocates are pushing for using an “X” in place of “M” or “F”. 

“We are evaluating the best approach to achieve this goal. The process of adding a gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons to these documents is technologically complex and will take time for extensive systems updates,” Blinken said.  

The secretary said these steps were taken in consultation with “like-minded” foreign governments that have undertaken similar changes and said administration officials are in contact with advocates on the best approach moving forward. 

The move marks a significant advancement in a years-long struggle by activists pushing for the federal government to change rules around gender identification. It was welcomed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which had advocated for federal ID across all federal agencies to accept selected gender identities without medical documentation.

“Improved access to accurate passports will have such a profound impact on the lives of trans, intersex, and non-binary folks across the country,” said Arli Christian, ACLU campaign strategist.

“Trans, non-binary, and intersex people know who we are and we need recognition of who we are — not permission. But the work doesn’t stop here. We will keep working with the administration to make sure we see these important changes to gender change policies across all federal agencies,” Christian said.

Christian also praised the advocacy of Dana Zzyym, the former Navy sailor and intersex activist who successfully sued the State Department to reprocess a passport over the fact that Zzyym possessed both male and female characteristics and identifies as gender nonbinary. 

“Thank you to the Biden administration for taking this important step forward, and congrats to Dana Zzyym and other non-binary and intersex advocates who we have been fighting together with for this important change,” Christian said. 

More information on the passport identification updates are available at the State Department’s travel website.