US State Department’s gender-inclusive policies are long awaited


Getty Images

The U.S. Department of State’s new passport policies are gender inclusive.

By Brionna Belcher, Managing Editor

The U.S. Department of State has announced plans to follow the lead of at least 15 other countries by including an “X” gender marker on passports, which becomes available as early as 2022. 

The decision comes after the U.S. Department of State announced in June that they would be taking concrete actions to promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world. 

Among these actions was the decision to allow applicants to self-select their gender as “M” or “F” without requiring medical certification if an applicant’s self-selected gender does not match the one on their identity documents. 

“It’s always important when individuals, particularly trans and non-binary and gender non-conforming people, can show up in an authentic way and what’s true for them,” said Molly Holmes, director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. 

Illinois has plans to implement a gender-neutral marker on driver’s licenses, but this likely won’t be available until 2024. While Illinois does currently offer a gender-neutral marker on birth certificates, it’s a lot harder to carry around a birth certificate than it is a passport. 

Having an official government document accurately reflect your identity can be extremely validating, but not everyone may be ready to express their identity so publicly.

Individuals who’d like to apply to change their current gender marker must do so in person. While passport specialists have been instructed to treat applicants with respect by using the correct pronouns and refraining from asking unrelated questions, the fear of discrimination is still very real. 

“There’s a high level of discrimination for people who have an X gender marker because essentially they’re outing themselves,” Holmes said. “I think that particularly transgender people who’ve had experience with discrimination and bias could be a little skeptical to put themselves out there in this way.”

Even for those who aren’t quite ready to change their gender marker just yet, having the option to do so is important. Many Americans live in states that have complicated requirements when it comes to changing gender markers on official documents, such as requesting proof of surgery or court order. 

The changes being made to U.S. passports give every American the option to obtain at least one official document that accurately reflects their identity without having to jump through hoops to do so.

The fight for equality is far from over, but with these new passport policies, it seems like we’re moving in the right direction.