After years of lobbying and lawsuits, nonbinary and intersex people may finally be getting passports that reflect who they are: LGBTQ+ advocates have been in talks with the Biden administration about executive action to add “X” gender markers to all federal documents, including passports and social security cards, according to the ACLU.
The White House declined to offer a timeline for the rollout or comment on how the policy might be implemented. But Matt Hill, a spokesperson at the White House, said President Joe Biden remains committed to issuing nonbinary IDs, a promise he made during his campaign.
“President Biden remains committed to advancing state and federal efforts that allow transgender and non-binary Americans to update their identification documents to accurately reflect their gender identity, especially as transgender and non-binary people continue to face harassment or are denied access to services because their identifications documents don’t affirm their identity,” Hill said in a statement to The 19th.
Arli Christian, campaign strategist at the ACLU and one of the nation’s leading policy experts on transgender ID issues, wants the administration to issue “X” gender markers across all federal documents within Biden’s first 100 days in office. But advocates hope that in the long run, gender can be stricken from IDs unless it’s necessary, such as passports where international law requires gender markers.
“It cuts across so many areas of discrimination against trans people, whether we’re talking about being respected in school, safety, employment, housing,” Christian said.
The ACLU is also pushing the administration to adopt a policy that allows for self-attestation of gender, allowing trans, nonbinary and intersex people to update their federal gender markers without submitting medical documentation of a gender change. Currently, 20 states and Washington, D.C., have such policies. The White House did not comment on whether they would adopt a similar policy, and Biden’s LGBTQ+ campaign platform did not get into details about the plan.
Data suggest that hundreds of thousands of transgender people lack an ID that reflects who they are. The 2015 U.S. Trans Survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 46 percent of trans people don’t have identification that lists their correct name and gender. Last February, the UCLA School of Law estimated that 42 percent of eligible trans voters — 378,450 people — might be barred from voting in the general election due to voter ID laws in 35 states.
Intersex people have similarly struggled to obtain accurate documentation under the Trump administration, which refused to issue federal documents with “X” gender markers.
The State Department was repeatedly ordered to print an accurate passport for intersex Navy veteran Dana Zzyym. Zzyym has been deadlocked in a five-year court battle with the federal government, which has not issued them a passport with an “X” gender marker despite a court order.
“Five years is far too long to keep any person from access to an accurate U.S. passport,” said Lambda Legal attorney Paul Castillo, who is representing Zzyym, in an email. “We call on the State Department to promptly reconsider their decision and update their gender marker policy so it truly reflects the fabric of America.”
“X” gender markers are offered in 19 states and Washington, D.C. The federal adoption of the markers and promoting them in the remaining states has been a priority for President Joe Biden since before taking office.
“Transgender and non-binary people without identification documents that accurately reflect their gender identity are often exposed to harassment and violence and denied employment, housing, critical public benefits, and even the right to vote,” his campaign website said.
Biden vowed to address the issue and build on the legacy of the Obama administration, which began allowing transgender people to update their passports after transitioning.
Biden has already made good on several campaign promises made to the LGBTQ+ community: rolling back the transgender military ban, signing an executive order to enforce the Supreme Court’s landmark LGBTQ+ employment ruling, and nominating Pete Buttigieg and Dr. Rachel Levine. Buttigieg became the first out gay Cabinet member to go before the Senate to be confirmed for presidential appointment; Levine, who has not yet been confirmed, would become the first trans official to do so.
LGBTQ+ advocates, however, are not letting up pressure on the president. The ACLU has launched a petition pressing him to act swiftly on adding “X” gender markers to all federal forms.
“Access to an ID that reflects who you are is paramount to the rights of trans people, and so passing this kind of executive order early in the administration says from the federal government, ‘We see you, we respect you for exactly who you are,’” Christian said.