Man, woman or… X: the non-binary passport arrives in the United States

It’s a new little box on an administrative form, checked Monday after months of waiting: D. Ojeda, a person who identifies as non-binary, can now apply for a US passport with an “X” gender, neither male nor feminine.

My family “still does not recognize who I am” but, with such a document, “at least the state recognizes who I am”, explains to AFP the one who calls himself “D.”, one of the first people to apply for a gender-neutral passport, a possibility open to everyone from this Monday by the administration of Joe Biden.

In his home in Alexandria, in the suburbs of Washington, D. Ojeda began to fill out the long form: name, surname and, in the third box of the document, the choice: “H”, “F” or “X” for men, women or neutral.

A few other countries allow a similar approach. Australia had already done so in 2011, and notably added Pakistan, Nepal, New Zealand, Canada, Germany and Argentina.

Applied to his screen, D. places a cross in the last box and, without having to justify it, confirms his “gender change” compared to his previous passport mentioning a female sex.

And D. — who uses the pronouns “they”/”them” in English — “iel” in French — and prefers to be given to the masculine — finds it “incredible”.

“What is difficult for trans people is to change something. And I don’t think we should meet a health professional to prove who we are”, adds this activist, doctor of psychology and who works for the “National center for transgender equality”, one of the associations that pushed for this measure with the White House.

D. Ojeda's current U.S. passport, here near Washington on April 11, 2022, lists gender as female - a
D. Ojeda’s current US passport, here near Washington on April 11, 2022, mentions female gender – a non-binary ‘X’ will soon replace it (AFP – Stefani Reynolds)

“When we learned about it, virtually, in front of our computers, we started crying at each other,” says D., 34, seated near his desk covered with screens, in his blue sweater, thin chin beard, hair pulled back.

– “Look at me as I am” –

The State Department had already revealed, in October 2021, to have issued the first American passport with an “X” under the mention “sex”, but apart from a routine approach.

The expansion to all, announced on March 31, the international day of transgender visibility, is accompanied by other measures by the federal government aimed at gradually simplifying the administrative life of transgender or non-binary people.

About 1.2 million people define themselves as non-binary in the United States, according to a study by the University of California published last June.

D. Ojeda already has an “X” type Virginia driver’s license. “I just went to Motor Vehicle Administration, got an appointment, filled out the form, and the +X+ box was there!”.

In many other American states, elected Republicans are taking measures that are unfavorable to transgender people, in a political climate where questions of gender and identity have become among the most divisive in the country.

D. Ojeda is one of the first people in the United States to apply for a passport with a gender noted
D. Ojeda is one of the first people in the United States to apply for a passport with a gender marked “X”, neither male nor female, a possibility opened up on Monday April 11, 2022 by the administration of Joe Biden (AFP – Stefani Reynolds)

Without necessarily animosity, reports D., “I am called + Madame + all the time”, “it is difficult when I travel”.

Born in Peru, he is eager to find his family there, with the new passport. “My family, they still haven’t understood. They still don’t use the first name I want,” says D., and not his female birth name, which he does not want to use.

“When I was pretending to be a woman, and I tried really hard, there was always something that bothered me,” D continues.

“And there at least I have the state saying who I am, as a person. And, you know, I can tell people, ‘Here are my papers, the state sees me like that, and maybe- be should you start looking at me as I am+…” he said, pushing back a tear behind his large glasses.

“The world now seems safer to me.”

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