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The White House announces moves to gender neutral passports

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Nonbinary, intersex or gender-nonconforming Americans may soon choose a gender-neutral X on their passports. The Biden administration made the announcement yesterday on the annual Transgender Day of Visibility. NPR's Melissa Block reports.

MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: The X gender marker is designated for people of unspecified or another gender identity besides male or female. The State Department said the X marker will be respectful of individuals' privacy while advancing inclusion.

Here's spokesman Ned Price.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NED PRICE: Today and every day, we reaffirm our commitment to promoting and protecting the freedom, the dignity, the equality of all persons, including transgender, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming persons around the world.

BLOCK: For LGBTQ advocates, it's a proud moment.

SASHA BUCHERT: It's huge.

BLOCK: That's Sasha Buchert, nonbinary and transgender rights project director at Lambda Legal, which for years fought for this policy change in court.

BUCHERT: Before this change for nonbinary folks and intersex folks or folks that, you know, fall somewhere between the gender markers, it places them in this really untenable bind where they have to show an identification that basically says that they're a different person than they are.

BLOCK: The Transportation Security Administration will also allow the X option for its TSA PreCheck program. And later this year, TSA will update its body-scanning technology at airports, which will reduce the need for pat-downs that have been especially worrisome for transgender travelers.

The Biden administration's moves are extremely significant, says Sarah Kate Ellis, head of the LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD. And she says they're especially key at this moment to counter the wave of antitrans legislation being passed around the country.

SARAH KATE ELLIS: This administration has squarely stood on the side of transgender, gender-nonconforming and intersex folks and has been very vocal about that. And the context to this is incredibly important as we're seeing over 200 anti-LGBTQ bills, most of them targeted at the trans community.

BLOCK: The U.S. will join at least 15 countries that offer a third gender or gender-neutral option on passports, including Argentina, Canada and India. U.S. citizens will be able to choose the X gender marker on their passport application beginning on April 11.

Melissa Block, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOULAR ORDER'S "KEYFRAMES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.