The United States has issued its first U.S. passport with an “X” gender marker, acknowledging the rights of people who do not identify as male or female, the State Department said on Wednesday.
The department said in a statement that it would expand the gender-neutral option to all applicants next year after it updates its policies on passports and U.S. citizenship certificates for children born abroad. It said it was working with other government agencies to “ensure as smooth a travel experience as possible for all passport holders, regardless of their gender identity.”
A department spokeswoman declined to identify the recipient of the passport, citing privacy considerations. Lambda Legal, a national civil rights organization, said on Wednesday that the passport had been issued to Dana Zzyym, a military veteran who is intersex.
In 2015, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Colorado against the State Department on Mx. Zzyym’s behalf after Mx. Zzyym was denied a gender-neutral passport. Mx. Zzyym’s original birth certificate identified them as male, and their driver’s license listed them as female, according to court documents.
The court ruled in favor of Mx. Zzyym in 2016, but Lambda Legal said in a statement that it asked a federal court to reopen the case because the State Department continued to “refuse to recognize a gender marker that is neither ‘M’ (male) nor ‘F’ (female).”
In 2018, a judge again found that the State Department had violated the law, and last year the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Colorado sent the case back to the lower court, Paul Castillo, a Lambda Legal lawyer working with Mx. Zzyym, said in an interview.
“I anticipate the administrative end of wrapping up the lawsuit should be forthcoming,” Mr. Castillo said.
In a telephone interview, Mx. Zzyym, 63, said the envelope with the passport arrived at their home in Fort Collins, Colo., while they were out on Wednesday morning. The passport has the usual information — name, place of birth, expiration date — but there was the long-awaited “X” in the section below “sex.”
“It was nice to finally get it after all this time,” Mx. Zzyym said. “It was an exciting moment in time when I got to open the envelope. There was a big gasp, a combination of excitement and relief.”
Mx. Zzyym, the associate director of the Intersex Campaign for Equality, said they had lost out on years of opportunities to attend international intersex conferences, including one in Mexico City in 2014, but that will now change. They also hoped to someday fulfill a long-held dream to go fishing in Costa Rica.
But there were more immediate, and important, gratifications, they said.
“I feel good about standing up for myself and other intersex and nonconforming people,” Mx. Zzyym said.
The State Department said in its statement on Wednesday that the new gender-neutral option was part of a “commitment to promoting the freedom, dignity, and equality of all people.”
The Biden administration announced a new rule in June that created a gender marker on passports and citizenship certificates for people who are nonbinary, intersex, or do not conform to gender roles.
The previous policy for changing a gender marker on a passport required medical certification to be included with the application, which was available only to those who had transitioned from one gender to another. That application is no longer required.
In a statement after the announcement in June, Mx. Zzyym expressed hope about soon receiving an “accurate” passport.
“In the long run, I started this lawsuit to get legal recognition for intersex and nonbinary people, and I did this for the future,” Mx. Zzyym said on Wednesday. “For intersex kids to be able to say, ‘Hey, I happen to be a human being who happens to be intersex.’”
More than a half-dozen other countries — including Canada, Australia, Argentina, Nepal and New Zealand — have adopted similar policies. About 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow an “X” gender designation on driver’s licenses.
Mary Emily O’Hara, a spokesperson for GLAAD, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, identifies as nonbinary and had also been waiting for the rules about passport gender options to take effect.
“Today, the U.S. finally catches up with other countries around the world that have already seen gender-neutral passports in use for years,” and that’s something to celebrate,” they said in a statement.