For the first time, the United States has issued a passport with the gender designation “X” to a person who doesn’t identify as male or female, and the Department of State announced Wednesday that it will be able to provide that option to more people in the coming year.
While the department didn’t reveal the identity of the updated travel document’s recipient, Dana Zzyym of Fort Collins, Colorado, identified themself as the passport holder to the Associated Press.
Zzyym tells the outlet that they’ve been in a legal fight with the government over the passport designation since 2015, when they were first denied one for failing to check male or female on the application. Instead, Zzyym wrote “Intersex” above the “F” and “M” boxes, requesting in a separate letter that the “X” option be provided.
“I’m not a problem. I’m a human being,” Zzyym told the AP. “That’s the point.”
According to court documents, Zzyym was born with ambiguous physical sexual characteristics and was raised as a boy. Although they underwent several surgeries, the procedures did not make Zzyym appear fully male. Zzyym served in the U.S. Navy as male and later, while studying at Colorado State University, came to identify as intersex.
As an intersex person, Zzyym says the State Department’s initial refusal to issue a passport that matched their gender identity prevented them from traveling to Mexico for a meeting of Organization Intersex International.
U.S. special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, Jessica Stern, said the decision to add X to the document reflects the “lived reality” that offering only two gender designations leaves out a lot of human beings.
“When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect,” Stern said.
While the State Department now allows people to self-identify as male or female without providing medical documents if those designations don’t match the gender on their other IDs, there’s still a few details to iron out before it will make the X available to more nonbinary, intersex and gender-nonconforming people—including updating its computers and getting the official green light from the Office of Management and Budget, which must approve all government forms.
The move makes the U.S. one of the few countries that offers a third option on its travel documents, a group that currently includes Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Nepal.
“We see this as a way of affirming and uplifting the human rights of trans and intersex and gender-nonconforming and nonbinary people everywhere,” Stern said.
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