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RELEASE: Rep. Khanna introduces legislation to add a third gender onto U.S. Passports

February 25, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17) introduced legislation instructing the U.S. Department of State to add an additional “(X), Unspecified” sex marker category for U.S. passports, passport cards, or Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, allowing applicants whose genders are neither male nor female a third gender marker option.

“Respecting every American’s gender must extend to travel abroad,” said Rep. Ro Khanna. “The freedom to move and express yourself no matter what should be guaranteed in this country. My wholehearted gratitude to Gerri Cannon for laying the groundwork for this bill in New Hampshire, as well as the numerous groups and activists who have molded this bill into the most accessible option for gender non-conforming Americans. Everyone in this country should have the freedom to express their preferred gender on passports.”

At least 10 countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Germany, India, and New Zealand already issue passports with three gender options. Additionally, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency that establishes international travel document standards, already recognizes “(M) Male”, “(F) Female”, and “(X) Unspecified” as valid and machine-readable identifiers.
 
In order to minimize barriers to gender-diverse applicants, Rep. Khanna’s bill will implement the self-attestation standard for applicants seeking an “(X) Unspecified” marker. This means that applicants will not need to undertake burdensome or expensive processes (such as procuring a signed affidavit from a physician) in order to update the sex marker on their passport. Rep. Khanna’s bill also does not mandate that Americans identifying outside of “male” or “female” on preexisting documents, such as drivers’ licenses or birth certificates, list a corresponding “X” on their passport. This allows gender-diverse Americans to make the best decision for themselves and their safety when traveling.

“All people should be able to express their gender identity in a way that is authentic to them – and creating a third, unspecified gender option for U.S. citizens to stipulate on their passport is an important step in the right direction,” said Chairman Eliot Engel. “A number of countries and international organizations have already taken this step with travel documents and it is time for the U.S. as well. I’m pleased to join my colleagues on this bill which would create the same opportunity for U.S. passport holders who don’t identify as strictly male or female.” 

“This is a human rights issue – every American ought to be afforded the basic dignity and respect of being recognized for who they are by their government,” said Chairman Jim McGovern. “For non-binary folks, this simple change would make a world of difference. I’m proud to strongly support this bill and grateful for Congressman Ro Khanna’s leadership on this issue.”

“Gender diverse people face innumerable limitations and difficulties in expressing their identities across government documentation and paperwork,” said Rep. Mark Pocan. “The Gender Inclusive Passport Act is a first step to ensure that we remove at least one offensive and burdensome requirement that gender diverse people are forced to face every time they want to travel. The time is long overdue to curtail these unnecessary standards that restrain the identities of people across the gender spectrum.”

“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. Unfortunately, too many of our institutions do not recognize those who do not fit within the gender binary, leaving them feeling erased and unsafe,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal. “The Gender Inclusive Passport Act is an important corrective step: by requiring the State Department to offer passport applicants a third gender marker option, the U.S. will join 10 other countries that already issue passports with this option. Most importantly, it says to our gender non-binary and gender non-conforming friends that we see and celebrate them and they are a full part of American society."

“As Vice-Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus and a founding Member of the Transgender Equality Task Force, I am proud to support this policy solution that will for the first time, give transgender Americans the opportunity to present as their authentic selves on U.S. passports,” said Rep. Mike Quigley. “Without a doubt, we have further to go to achieve full equality for LGBT individuals, but each act of openness and acceptance is an important step towards true equality for everyone.”

“The State Department could and should already be providing this option to U.S. citizens who are not male or female, as many states and other nations do,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director, The National Center for Transgender Equality. “That includes some members of our transgender and intersex communities who currently can’t get a passport without lying about who they are. If the government is going to be in the business of declaring and labeling our gender, it should at least reflect today’s science and allow everyone to answer truthfully.”

“This adjustment to the U.S. Passport application process is long overdue,” said Paul Castillo, Counsel, Lambda Legal. “Our client, Dana Zzyym, an intersex and nonbinary veteran of the U.S. Navy, has for more than five years sought to obtain an accurate passport that truly reflects who they are. Incredibly, the U.S. State Department is in effect requiring that Dana lie on the application form in order for them to get a passport. Dana has been forced to challenge the State Department in court and, over the last several years, had to forego multiple opportunities to present at international conferences because they cannot lawfully exit the country. Congressman Khanna’s bill will free Dana and other intersex, nonbinary, and other gender diverse Americans from the virtual nationwide house arrest into which the State Department has placed them.”

“When third gender markers can be applied to infants born with genital differences, they may steer parents toward choosing normalizing genital surgeries to avoid a perceived stigma of an ‘X’ for their child,” said Kimberly Zieselman, Executive Director, interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth. “interACT is proud to support third gender markers on government documents for adults who can opt in."

“Rep. Khanna's groundbreaking legislation would help ensure nonbinary people can travel abroad with the dignity and respect we all deserve," said Valerie Ploumpis, National Policy Director, Equality California. "As one of the first states to add a nonbinary gender marker to driver's licenses, California is proud to lead the way on progressive legislation for the non-binary and LGBTQ+ community. We enthusiastically support Rep. Khanna's legislation to finally recognize our nonbinary family, friends and loved ones.”

“This bill would constitute a necessary recognition of genders beyond the binary by the federal government,” said Alex Binsfeld, Co-founder, Beyond Binary Legal. “It would provide people across the United States with access to identification documents that better match their gender, regardless of whether the state in which they reside recognizes this crucial part of their identity and experience.  We hope that by its introduction, a federal bill acknowledging genders beyond the binary will raise public awareness and understanding regarding the fact that many people do not identify exclusively as a man or a woman and that this natural human variance must be respected.”

"The ability to obtain accurate identity documents is imperative to the safety and wellbeing of LGBTQ people, and we thank Rep. Khanna for advancing this issue,” said David Stacy, Government Affairs Director, Human Rights Campaign. “Many members of the LGBTQ community identify as non-binary, and non-binary individuals deserve to have their gender acknowledged and accurately reflected on vital government documents like passports. Non-binary people already face disproportionately high rates of discrimination, harassment, and violence, and this risk of harm is significantly exacerbated when forced to present incongruent legal documents that do not accurately reflect who they are."

“Intersex and non-binary people exist, as numerous cultures have always acknowledged and twenty-three U.S. states do today,” said Hida Viloria, Founding Director, Intersex Campaign for Equality. “Yet we're targets of discrimination--such as being subjected, as infants, to irreversible, medically unnecessary surgeries that aim to make intersex people male or female--because our society only recognizes male or female citizens. Many intersex and non-binary people want to accurately identify ourselves on federal documents, like the vast majority of people who can easily check male or female do, and allowing us to do so simply upholds our nation's goal of equality for all citizens."

You can read the full bill text here.

 

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About the Office

Congressman Khanna represents the 17th District of California, which covers communities in Silicon Valley. Visit his website at khanna.house.gov. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @RepRoKhanna.