Democrats Introduce Bill to Add Third Gender to Passports

The bill comes amid the State Department’s refusal to issue court-ordered passports to an intersex Coloradan.

For five years years, intersex Coloradan Dana Zzyym has been fighting for the right to a gender-neutral passport, and has been winning that fight.

U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado has repeatedly ruled that the State Department had to issue Zzyym a gender-neutral passport. The Trump administration continues to fight the ruling.

On Tuesday, California Rep. Ro Khanna announced that Congress would be taking up the issue in a bill.

“Everyone in this country should have the freedom to express their preferred gender on passports,” said Khanna in a statement to media.

Lambda Legal is continuing to fight Zzyym’s case in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“In those five years, I’ve been invited to present at several international conferences on issues confronting intersex individuals,” Zzyym said in a statement. “Ironically, it is precisely the discrimination intersex and nonbinary people face that prevents me from attending these conferences.”

Nonbinary IDs, typically with a gender marker of “X,” are commonplace in the U.S. today. Fifteen states and Washington D.C. offer gender-neutral driver’s licenses and identification for transgender, nonbinary and intersex people. Airlines have begun updating their systems to include those IDs.

At least 10 countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Germany, India, and New Zealand, issue nonbinary passports, according to California lawmakers.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal says passage of the bill would be a corrective action, one that brings the U.S. in line with those other countries.

“As the proud mother of a non-binary child, I have seen from a deeply personal perspective the freedom that comes from being fully and authentically yourself,” said Jayapal in a statement. “Unfortunately, too many of our institutions do not recognize those who do not fit within the gender binary, leaving them feeling erased and unsafe.”

Research has shown that IDs can be particularly burdensome for transgender people. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 68% of respondents didn’t have a single ID that reflected both their name and pronouns. Nonbinary people were far less likely to update their documents; 61% of transgender men and women who had transitioned changed their name on their driver’s license, compared to just 39% of nonbinary people.

Kate Sosin is an award-winning, trans-identified news and investigative reporter.
@shoeleatherkate