A new option on US passports is being hailed as a milestone for equality rights - here's why

US passport / USA / American
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US passport applications will soon include an 'X' option. Credit: Unsplash

The United States has issued its first passport with an X gender designation, in a major equality milestone recognising the rights of people who don’t identify as male or female.

The option is expected to be offered more broadly next year, the State Department announced.

The United States joins a handful of other countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Nepal and Canada, in allowing citizens to designate a gender other than male or female on their passports.

Passports that reflect 'greater dignity and respect'

US special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ+ rights, Jessica Stern, branded the move historic and celebratory.

The government documents are being brought in line with the “lived reality” that there is a wider spectrum of human sex characteristics, she said.

“When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect,” Stern said.

Black Trans Lives Matter march in London Credit: PA

Stern said her office planned to talk about the US' experience around the world and she hopes that might help inspire other governments to offer the option.

"We see this as a way of affirming and uplifting the human rights of trans and intersex and gender-nonconforming and nonbinary people everywhere," she said.

The department did not announce to whom the passport was issued.

The State Department announced in June that it was moving toward adding a third gender marker for nonbinary, intersex and gender-nonconforming people.

But it said it would take time because it required extensive updates to its computer systems.

A department official said the passport application and system updates with the X designation option still need to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget, which approves all government forms, before they can be issued.

The department now also allows applicants to self-select their gender as male or female, no longer requiring them to provide medical certification if their gender does not match that listed on their other identification documents.