The State Department just made U.S. passports a lot more inclusive. On June 30, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the Department is working toward adding a third gender marker for nonbinary, intersex, and gender nonconforming people on passport applications. In addition, Americans are now allowed to self-select “M” or “F” when applying for a passport without having to provide medical certification if the gender doesn’t match their birth certificate, effective immediately.
This is a win for transgender travelers. Up until the recent change, individuals had to provide paperwork from a doctor stating that they had either completed a full medical transition or were currently undergoing one.
Applicants will also eventually have the option to select a gender that is not male or female—although the exact date of this change is still unknown. “We are evaluating the best approach to achieve this goal,” said Blinken in his official statement. “The process of adding a gender marker for nonbinary, intersex, and gender nonconforming persons to these documents is technologically complex and will take time for extensive systems updates.”
Several countries around the world already have a third gender option on passports, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, and Germany. This move by the United States falls in line with President Biden’s campaign promise to advance LGBTQ+ equality in America and around the world.
U.S. passport changes aren’t the first time gender politics have come up in the travel industry. In recent years, activists have drawn attention to the binary culture involved with travel, from TSA technology that scans passengers based on two genders to the lack of gender-neutral bathrooms in airports. While we still have a long way to go, some U.S.-based airlines have paid attention and progressed accordingly. Both United and American Airlines began offering nonbinary options to their ticket booking systems in 2019, allowing passengers to select “X” or “U” instead of male or female. Other airlines like Delta and Southwest expressed intentions to follow suit, although they have yet to make any official changes.