The first-ever United States passport with an “X” gender designation was issued to Dana Zzyym, marking a massive victory for non-binary people. According to the State Department, this option will become more widely available to the public by next year. This is great news for people who don’t identify with being male or female, and it’s also great for kids who might be starting to get their first forms of government-issued ID, like a passport. Having a government document reflect your gender identity is a massive step forward for people across the United States and will help kids who don’t exist on the binary feel more accepted.
Up until this point, people have been required to identify as either male or female in order to receive a passport but in 2015, Zzyym, an intersex activist and nonbinary Navy veteran from Fort Collins, Colorado, entered into a legal battle with the State Department to get a passport that did not force them to lie about their gender. The State Department denying Zzyym’s passport prevented them from being able to attend at least two Organization Intersex International meetings.
And more than five years later, Zzyym told The Associated Press that they received their passport with the “X” gender designation in the mail. Zzyym said that the fight was less about the ability to travel to different countries, and more to ensure that the next generation of nonbinary individuals, or people who aren’t male or female, are treated with the same respect and decency as everyone else.
“I’m not a problem. I’m a human being. That’s the point,” Zzyym explained. In a statement, they also said that they “almost burst into tears when I opened the envelope, pulled out my new passport, and saw the ‘X’ stamped boldly under ‘sex,’” Zzyym said. “I’m also ecstatic that other intersex and nonbinary U.S. citizens will soon be able to apply for passports with the correct gender marker. It took six years, but to have an accurate passport, one that doesn’t force me to identify as male or female but recognizes I am neither, is liberating.”
In June, the State Department said that they were planning to move towards offering a third option for passports specifically for nonbinary, gender-nonconforming, and intersex individuals. However, they admitted that it would take some time due to the process of updating computer systems. But based on the State Department’s statement, it sounds like the change will start to be rolled out at some point in 2022.
Jessica Stern, the U.S. special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, said that this will allow more people to “reflect their true identity” and as a result, she hopes that “they live with greater dignity and respect.”
One question is what this could mean for state-issued IDs. But for now, it appears it will remain mostly on a state-by-state basis, with states like New York planning to implement a third gender option. However, if it is coming on a national level, it’s hard to imagine that more states will not make similar changes.