Yes, that’s my thumb in the picture–holding the first US X Passport!!! It was issued yesterday to my friend and colleague at IC4E (the Intersex Campaign for Equality) Dana Zzyym. As Lambda Legal, who represented Dana, said in their press release:
The Intersex Campaign for Equality and its Founding Director, Hida Viloria, played a critical role in bringing Dana’s case forward.
I’m touched, honored–and still a bit shocked!–to see this finally happen, and to have played a role (and also to have been with Dana when they opened the envelope).
Why am I so happy? Because intersex people exist and always have (known for centuries as hermaphrodites), yet modern medicine has been surgically removing the sex traits that make us intersex, as babies and children, in order to ensure that only male or female bodied people exist. Indeed, the very fact that male or female were the only sex categories acknowledged in our society was often used to justify this irreversible, severly damaging, intersex-negating practice. Making the government acknowledge our existence by expanding sex categories to accurately include us is a critical step towards ending this surgical erasure, which has been among my primary goals since becoming an intersex activist twenty-five years ago.
A few important things to note about this historic development:
1. The X marker is an OPTION. Some intersex people strongly identify with male or female markers, and will not want an X marker. Some non-binary people will also want to keep M or F sex markers for various reasons, depite their use of they/them pronouns. It’s all about personal identity and choice. The X provides another option for anyone for whom the M or F doesn’t work.
2. Dana’s passport lawsuit was filed on Intersex Awareness Day (October 26th) 2015, and inspired efforts for X gender markers on a state level (on driver’s licenses) that subsequently began and exist now in twenty-three states at last count.
3. The court decided the state department had to grant Dana a passport with an alternate “sex” marker (that is how the marker appears on passports) because Dana was able to prove, with medical verification, that their sex is not male or female. However, Dana and I consulted Lambda Legal on the fact that these markers refer to both sex and gender (see below) and should also be available to non-binary people whom are not intersex in order to be inclusive of our trans siblings.
4. The marker is listed as a “sex” designator on US passports, but is technically a “sex/gender” (sex and gender) marker in legal use. I refer to the fact that visible “gender,” not actual biological “sex,” has historically been used to identify many intersex people’s “sex” on birth certificates and other IDs, and contnues to be. For example, some intersex people look typically female-bodied at birth and are always assigned “female” on birth certiifcates but strictly biologically speaking their sex is considered “male” because they have internal male reproductive organs (testes) and XY (typcially considered male) chromosomes. Thus the new X, like F and M markers, represents both sex and gender, as it should, and is available to any passport applicant who feels their sex OR gender/gender identity is not male or female.
I thank President Biden and the US State Department for amending its policy in order to include, and thus humanize, intersex and non-binary people–particularly for the future generations who will finally know and feel that their existence is acknowledged. Its a privilege that most take for granted, but one that intersex and non-binary Amewricans have not had until Dana filed their groundbreaking lawsuit, ushering in state wide and now federal recognition.