U.S. State Department to add gender-inclusive option on passports, no longer requires gender-affirming documentation

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FILE – In this March 15, 2021, file photo, demonstrators gather on the steps of the Montana State Capitol protesting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Helena, Mont. Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill Friday, May 7, 2021, banning transgender athletes from participating in school and university sports according to the gender with which they identify, making Montana one of several Republican-controlled states to approve such measures in 2021. (Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP, File)=MTHEL

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — U.S. citizens may now declare their gender identity on U.S. passports without providing medical documentation.

On the last day of Pride Month, the U.S. State Department announced that it will be updating procedures to enable applicants to self-select their gender as male or female without needing medical certification. Additionally, the State Department has also started moving to create a gender marker option for non-binary, intersex and gender non-conforming people applying for a passport. 

“The process of adding a gender marker for non-binary, intersex and gender non-conforming persons to these documents is technologically complex and will take time for extensive systems updates,” wrote Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken in a statement. “The Department will also be working closely with its interagency partners to ensure as smooth a travel experience as possible for the passport holder. As we work towards this longer-term goal of making available a gender marker for non-binary, intersex and gender non-conforming persons seeking a passport or CRBA, the Department will provide updates on the process and any interim solutions via our website.” 

The announcement marks the achievement of a promise made by President Biden to increase equity and inclusion for millions of Americans. Transgender and nonbinary people often risk being denied employment, housing, the right to vote and other benefits without gender-affirming documentation. 

“So having one of the most important forms of identification validate your identity is very very important,” said Dr. Brenda Risch, executive director of the Borderland Rainbow Center. 

The State Department previously required a doctor to certify whether a passport applicant had transitioned or was in the process of changing their gender, but that rule is no longer in effect. 

“I think for a lot of non-binary people, this is an opportunity to feel fully recognized,” Risch said. 

The State Department now permits U.S. citizenship to babies born overseas to married couples with at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen, regardless of which parent is biologically related to the baby.

That policy was widely criticized because it excluded same-sex American and binational couples who used reproductive technologies to conceive overseas (like sperm donations or surrogacy) from transferring citizenship to their children.

Advocates in El Paso say these policy changes by the Biden administration are a step toward achieving equity but does not mean the fight — or struggle — is over. 

“Pride isn’t just about a month,” Risch said. “It’s about true equity. And that demand doesn’t happen once a month, every year. That demand happens every day of every year.”

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