Last year, the government of the Netherlands officially unveiled a new gender-segment on their official passport. It just happened to pop up in a U.S. passport someplace along the way.
The “X” section became official with passports issued starting on July 1, 2015. The passport has previously been available as a “no option” option. Both the Netherlands and Canada also now allow “X” gender marker on their passport along with being able to add a “q” or “z” to their gender designation. Since these recently unveiled passports don’t use certain gender designation parameters, however, they also can’t be used for visas, Green Cards or student visas.
State Department officials have updated passport-related websites, however, indicating that new or old passports are not required to carry the “X” gender marker.
The 1.9 million consumers who buy passports online are able to change their gender marker without needing to visit a physical address. To do so, customers who click on the blue-colored U.S. passport icon on the website go to the Gender Line, or they can go through the application process online.
This explanation of the national policy may not satisfy some, however. A petition posted on Change.org had previously asked the State Department to explain why they wouldn’t allow customers to change the gender of their passports.
Here’s the official response:
“Under the Privacy Act, the government has a compelling interest in protecting individuals’ personal information, including passport information, including from unauthorized disclosure. The Privacy Act prevents individuals from disclosing or disclosing the biometric data of a U.S. passport applicant that includes a sex designation, and the U.S. passport office may not disclose data pertaining to a passport that is not required to be processed.”
The only private company with access to the process is National Commercial Identity Services, which has a contract with the State Department to perform passport processing. Nischal Saha, an attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union, believes this policy will be challenged in court.
“As long as the State Department continues to require secretive, non-transparent processing processes, there will be no means for individuals to change their gender markers accurately,” Saha said.