The Biden Administration announced new measures on March 31, Transgender Day of Visibility, that will make air travel more accessible and gender inclusive. As of April 11, US citizens will be able to use an “X” gender marker on their passports, the State Department revealed on Thursday, according to The New York Times. To respect individuals’ privacy, the “X” gender marker will be officially defined as “unspecified or another gender identity.” The long-awaited news comes nine months after officials put forth a plan during summer 2021, marking a monumental step toward gender inclusivity on the State level.
“We are firmly committed to promoting and protecting the freedom, dignity and equality of all persons, including transgender nonbinary, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming persons around the world.”
For individuals who are nonbinary, transgender, genderqueer, intersex, or gender nonconforming, the new measure also rescinds a rule requiring a doctor’s note that indicates they have medically transitioned or are in the process of medically transitioning to change their gender on their passport. Medical documentation will no longer be required to do so. These measures also extend to the TSA’s Trusted Travelers Program, which allows pre-approved travelers to use expedited lanes at US airports and when crossing international borders.
In addition to the new passport regulations, the TSA plans to implement new initiatives that will eliminate discriminatory body-screening and airport security procedures. Existing TSA technology requires officers to press a button that informs security machines of a traveler’s gender before they are scanned. If the frame of a person’s body does not match the machine’s expected outline for that specific gender, the hardware may set off an alarm to alert TSA officials. Per the measures, the TSA will be required to update its technology to dispose of these binary gender-based practices.
The administration’s new measures come just one month after Texas passed its first anti-trans bill. The process of updating gender markers on legal documents — like birth certificates and driver’s licenses — is often an arduous procedure. With these new regulations in place, many people will finally have official documents that acknowledge their true identities.
“This is absolutely phenomenal for transgender Americans,” said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Many people still live in states where that process for updating your driver’s license or state ID is onerous and might be very expensive.”
In a statement responding to the new measures, the president and CEO of LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis, said, “Everyone deserves the right to have identity documents that reflect who they are, and to go through airport security without facing harassment and public humiliation. At a time when so many state legislatures are attacking our community, it’s heartening to have federal leadership take so much action to support LGBTQ Americans, especially trans youth.”
Extending these measures beyond air travel, the Biden Administration also announced that the option of the “X” gender marker will soon be available on applications for federal student aid, in the White House’s security system for workers and visitors, and on forms to submit discrimination complains to the Equal Opportunity Commission.
“We are firmly committed to promoting and protecting the freedom, dignity and equality of all persons, including transgender nonbinary, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming persons around the world,” said Douglas Benning, a representative for the State Department’s bureau of consular affairs.