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Tipsheet

WaPo Columnist Suggests Passports Shouldn’t List 'Male' or 'Female'

AP Photo/Benny Snyder

An opinion piece published by The Washington Post on Sunday argued that passports should not list a person’s gender. This comes after the Biden administration announced that transgender and non-binary individuals will soon have the option to list "X" as their gender on their passport instead of "M" (male) or "F" (female), as Katie covered.

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The piece, “I’m transgender. I won’t be getting an X on my passport.” was written by writer and artist Abeni Jones. Jones’ piece opened by explaining that transgender individuals are often selected for additional screening at the airport. Jones claimed that when transitioning from male to female, travel “became more difficult.” As a result, Jones claimed that “X” passports won’t “advance inclusion” and that removing gender from passports altogether is a “more powerful option.”

“I’ve been ‘randomly’ selected by TSA for additional screening — again. Each time, the agent asks me whether I want a man or woman to conduct the pat-down. But what they’re really asking is: What are you?

In 2018, I officially changed the gender marker on my passport from M to F. By that point, I had socially transitioned, undergone top surgery and been on hormone replacement therapy for years. But updating the marker didn’t make travel easier. Traveling while transgender only became more difficult.

I’m well over 6 feet tall. Unless I decide to dress extremely femme and put on a full face of makeup — to then sit for hours on a cramped, sweaty airplane — the F on my passport actually invites extra scrutiny. Because I don’t always ‘pass,’ it frequently outs me as trans.

The U.S. State Department, in acknowledgement of the roadblocks such as these that trans, gender non-conforming, non-binary and intersex people routinely experience while traveling, recently announced that applicants for passports will soon have the option to choose X as their gender marker as an alternative to M or F.

It’s a nice symbol of support, and putting an X on a passport might really mean something to a select few. But given the trouble that often accompanies being out as non-binary, the move won’t ‘advance inclusion’ as much as the department’s announcement claims. If the State Department really wanted to take a step forward, there’s an easier, cheaper and more powerful option: remove gender from passports altogether.

Now, the X marker could be affirming for non-binary people who do not experience or anticipate persecution related to their gender identity. It could also work for people traveling exclusively through airports that have done an excellent job training their staff about gender and the meaning of the X marker, and that have policies in place to make travel smooth for gender-diverse travelers.

These hypothetical people and places, however, will be rare. More likely, the X will cause more of the hassle trans people have become accustomed to. Every once in a while, I do ‘pass’ with the F on my passport. If I had an X, though, extra scrutiny would be practically guaranteed. I asked a handful of non-binary friends about the upcoming change, and every one of them indicated that willingly outing themselves on their passport would mean inviting danger into their travel experience.”

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Later in the piece, Jones argued that listing "M", "F", or "X" on a passport is an example of “pointless gendering” and asks “is there a legitimate reason anyone other than my doctor needs to know my gender?”

On March 31, Katie covered how the Biden administration released a wide initiative to provide “equity” for transgender and non-binary individuals on “Transgender Day of Visibility.” 

"Transgender people are some of the bravest people in our nation. But nobody should have to be brave just to be themselves. Today, the Biden Administration announced new actions to support the mental health of transgender children, remove barriers that transgender people face accessing critical government services, and improve the visibility of transgender people in our nation’s data," the White House released in a statement. 

In addition to adding the “X” gender option on passports, other government agencies released documents promoting “gender-affirming health care for minors. 

The United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Population Affairs released a document outlining how “gender-affirming care is crucial to overall health and well-being” for children and adolescents. According to the OPA, “gender-affirming care” allows minors to focus on “social transitions” and boosts their confidence while “navigating the healthcare system.”

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A parallel document released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Child Traumatic Stress Network argued that “providing gender-affirming care is neither child maltreatment nor malpractice.” 

Several states, such as Texas, Arizona, Alabama and Idaho, have taken steps to protect minors by outlawing "gender-affirming" medical care for this age group.

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