Metro Weekly

Biden administration considering gender neutral “X” markers on federal documents

ACLU has reportedly been discussing updating federal policy with the administration

U.S. passport -- Photo by Levi Ventura on Unsplash
U.S. passport — Photo by Levi Ventura on Unsplash

The Biden administration is considering an executive action that would allow all federal documents to include a gender neutral “X” marker.

According to the ACLU, advocates have been communicating with the administration about implementing the change, which would also cover passports and social security cards. It would also fulfill a promise made by President Biden during his presidential campaign.

Although the White House has not outlined a specific time frame, White House spokesperson Matt Hill issued a statement to The 19th saying Biden “remains committed to advancing state and federal efforts that allow transgender and non-binary Americans to update their identification documents to accurately reflect their gender identity, especially as transgender and non-binary people continue to face harassment or are denied access to services because their identifications documents don’t affirm their identity.”

Arli Christian, a leading policy expert on transgender ID issues and ACLU campaign strategist, hopes the Biden administration allows “X” gender markers on all federal documents within the the administration’s first 100 days.

“It cuts across so many areas of discrimination against trans people, whether we’re talking about being respected in school, safety, employment, housing,” Christian told The 19th.

“Access to an ID that reflects who you are is paramount to the rights of trans people, and so passing this kind of executive order early in the administration says from the federal government, ‘We see you, we respect you for exactly who you are,’” Christian added.

The Trump administration adamantly refused to issue federal documents with “X” gender markers, as part of its broader campaign of anti-LGBTQ policies and actions during Trump’s four years in office.

Under Trump, the U.S. State Department refused to issue a passport with a neutral gender marker to Dana Zzyym, an intersex and nonbinary Naval veteran, despite court rulings that the department was able to do so.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals eventually ordered the State Department to issue a passport to Zzyym with the correct gender marker, finding that the Trump administration’s arguments as to why it couldn’t issue a gender neutral passport were largely void.

Currently, “X” gender markers are available an option to citizens in 19 states and Washington, D.C. 

Last year, a nonbinary transgender New York resident sued the state for failing to offer a nonbinary gender marker on driver’s licenses.

Sander Saba sued over a state policy that categorically prohibits nonbinary individuals from obtaining a license that reflects their gender identity, instead forcing them to choose either “male” or “female” as a gender marker.

“My request is simple — to have a driver’s license that matches my identity,” Saba said at the time. “It’s demeaning to be forced to carry identity documentation that is inconsistent with my identity. The State of New York should respect who I am, recognize me as nonbinary, and issue me an accurate driver’s license.”

In February of last year, U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna introduced legislation that would have ordered the State Department to add a third “X” gender marker for U.S. passports, arguing that respecting “every American’s gender must extend to travel abroad.”

U.S. allies like Canada, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand already issue passports with gender neutral markers.

Additionally, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations agency that determines international travel document standards, recognizes “X” or “unspecified” as a valid gender marker.

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