Americans will be permitted to select the gender-neutral “X” as a marker on their passport books starting April 11, and will enjoy non-gender-based “enhanced screening technology” at airports from later this year, the government said Wednesday.
The statement, timed to coincide with “International Trans Day of Visibility,” aims to make travel more convenient for transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.
Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said Wednesday that the State Department consulted with partner countries “that have already taken this important step toward recognizing gender diversity in their passports” before going ahead with this process.
The State Department also worked with the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to conduct qualitative research” on the gender marker’s definition.
“Every American deserves the freedom to be themselves,” the White House said in a statement. “But far too many transgender Americans still face systemic barriers, discrimination, and acts of violence,” reads the press release.
According to the State Department, the X gender marker will mean “unspecified or another gender definition” and will be available for other documents next year.
The move comes after the government said in June that a medical certificate will no longer be required if an applicant’s gender preference does not match the gender in their other documents.
“This is an important step toward achieving meaningful progress for LGBTQ equality in America,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David at the time. “It will empower and enable millions of citizens to travel domestically and internationally with greater confidence that the United States recognizes their gender identity.”
According to the organization, the change will benefit more than 1.2 million non-binary adults, 2 million transgender individuals, and 5.5 million people born intersex.
The Transportation Security Administration will also begin replacing “the current, gender-based system” with “enhanced screening technology” to improve the customer experience of transgender travelers who previously had to undergo additional screening due to alerts “in sensitive areas.”