Canada introduces gender-neutral passport option

In a move to promote acceptance and equality, Canada has introduced a third sex category option on passports and other government documents.

Beginning August 31, people can select “X” as an “unspecified” gender designation, which will be available on any federal document issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Travel Pulse reports.

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“By introducing an ‘X’ gender designation in our government-issued documents, we are taking an important step towards advancing equality for all Canadians regardless of gender identity or expression,” said the Honorable Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, in a statement. “All Canadians should feel safe to be themselves, live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose.”

This move is part of a larger push to embrace nontraditional forms of gender expression. Back in November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a special advisor on LGBTQ2 issues “to promote equality for the LGBTQ2 community, protect the rights of its members, and address discrimination against them — both historical and current.”

However experts are worried that those with an “X” on their passport might run into issues when trying to enter other countries. “I’m really worried that in countries like Uganda and Jamaica, where being LGBT is illegal and there’s laws on the books that prosecute people for identifying as trans, that this could leave people open to arbitrary detention, it could leave them open to scrutiny at airports, degrading treatment,” said Adrienne Smith, a Toronto immigration lawyer who specializes in transgender legal issues, to Global News.

Canada is not the first country to address gender identification on passports and other identification cards. According to the New York Times, Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan all have a third gender option available.

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In June, Oregon became the first state to allow residents to mark their gender as “not specified” on applications for driver’s licenses, learner’s permits and identity cards.