State Department Announces Option for ‘X’ Gender Marker on Passports

by Caitlin Berard

The first United States passports were issued in the late 1700s during the American Revolution. Back then, each passport contained only a physical description of its owner, including age, height, and facial features. In 1977, around 200 years after the introduction of U.S. passports, a gender marker appeared on the federal identity document. Since then, passport holders have had two options: “M” and “F.” Now, however, the State Department has announced that American citizens will have an “X” option under gender as well.

What to Know:

  • For over 40 years, U.S. passports have given an option of “M” or “F” as a gender marker
  • Next month, passports will add a third gender option, “X”
  • No documentation is necessary to change a passports’ gender marker

‘X’ Gender Marker Available on U.S. Passports Next Month

In an effort to “better serve all U.S. citizens, regardless of their gender identity,” the State Department is introducing a small change to U.S. passports. Rather than only “M” or “F,” American passport holders will have the option of selecting “X” as their gender marker beginning April 11. The State Department’s announcement was made on March 31, International Transgender Day of Visibility.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the option will be available on other forms of federal identity documents next year. “The Department is setting a precedent as the first federal government agency to offer the X gender marker on an identity document,” Blinken said of the “milestone” move.

The Department of Homeland Security added that they’re making an effort to reduce “false alarm rates and pat-downs” by reworking airport body scanners. “By replacing the current, gender-based system with this more accurate technology,” the statement from DHS said, “TSA [Transportation Security Administration] will improve the customer experience of transgender travelers who have previously been required to undergo additional screening due to alarms in sensitive areas.”

In addition, TSA is working with airlines to begin accepting the “X” gender marker. The Social Security Administration will also no longer require a doctor’s note to update gender information.

Americans Do Not Need Documentation to Alter Their Gender on Passports

Unlike a name change, Americans need no additional documentation to alter the gender on their passports. Should one wish to change the gender on their passport to “X,” they don’t need a doctor’s note. They need only apply with that gender marker checked.

During a press conference, Jessica Stern, U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons, explained the “X” gender marker. “The X means unspecified or another gender identity. The provision of an “X” gender marker option is important,” Stern said.

“Human beings do not always fit within a male or female category around the world. I am proud that the United States seeks to protect and promote the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons globally and this is an excellent example of leading by example.”