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UK Considering Gender Neutral Passports

UK Considering Gender Neutral Passports


The British Home Office has announced that it is considering implementing changes to British passports to reform the strict male or female†identity†markers that are currently required so as to†accommodate†trans and intersex citizens who at the moment are forced to pick either a male or female designation.

The Home Office is keen to stress that its consultation on this issue is to be rigorous and extensive and will assess how best to facilitate a change in the identity documents at minimum expense. The current approach being discussed appears to favor removing all reference to gender from passports, though obviously this is only one option that will be considered during the consultation process.

From Metro News:

A spokeswoman for the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) confirmed that the organisation is looking at how gender needs to be reported on passports.

‘We are exploring with international partners and relevant stakeholders the security implications of gender not being displayed in the passport,’ she explained.

‘This is at the early discussion stage and no decisions have been taken.’

The IPS spokeswoman goes on to stress that the change will of course have to meet existing border safety controls. It may be worth pointing out that certain military IDs such as the MOD 90 do not in fact reference gender directly so there is precedent for a change in this regard.

A change to passport gender markers may be important to a number of trans people who are going through gender realignment surgery and are currently forced to pick between a male and female category that may not match how they currently feel or present, leading to†embarrassing†situations when travelling. Trans citizens can also only change their identity marker after completing the gender realignment process. This restriction is, advocates of the change argue, an arbitrary one.

However, not all trans citizens may welcome this change as this comment from a campaigner speaking to Pink News points out:

Another campaigner, Jane Fae, said: “The issue of documenting gender goes much wider than the ‘feelings of trans and intersect people’. In fact many in the trans community would oppose the removal of gender as its inclusion on passports is vital to ensure safety when travelling abroad.

“Many non-trans individuals would be happier not declaring gender for all sorts of reasons. It should be optional for†all.”

Indeed it will be necessary to explore how to best safeguard trans and intersex citizens in countries that may have stricter controls on viable identity documents, but this is not an insurmountable problem.

The UK consultation follows Australia’s announcement that it will facilitate a third category “x” in addition to the male and female†categories†for those who feel they do not fit this gender binary. In so doing Australia will also be retiring its requirement that trans citizens must complete gender reassignment in order to change their identity markers. You can read more on that here.


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Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to PhotoComiX.

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2:23AM PST on Mar 6, 2012


3:03PM PDT on Oct 19, 2011

I hope this action will change all other countries to treat all their citizens the same.

8:10PM PDT on Sep 25, 2011

Something new!

9:53AM PDT on Sep 25, 2011

I think the third option "x" is a better idea.

1:50AM PDT on Sep 24, 2011

Thanks for the article.

1:48AM PDT on Sep 24, 2011

Thanks for the article.

3:58AM PDT on Sep 22, 2011

Not a good idea.

12:30AM PDT on Sep 22, 2011

It makes sense to me.

10:36PM PDT on Sep 21, 2011

After getting cut off...My position on such matters in general is that we cannot move toward particularly legal equality (or social equality, for that matter) by emphasizing and building division, regardless of the individual(s) or group(s) involved. Part of the respect necessary to have a reasonably peaceful society is to recognize people as whole individuals, and not merely representatives of one characteristic. The other is to respect the right of any and all to have and express their own beliefs and opinions, no matter how reprehensible we may find any particular example of their spoken or written expression. Back to the original point, we need that layer of security in identification. I don't understand why this is such an issue when gender identification has become one of the biggest wedges in our society to the point of swallowing up the rest of the entire persons who are involved. If even the most progressive elements of our society are going to treat our neighbors who are affected by this issue as gender identities that happen to have people, then why is the identification on a passport such a problem?

10:28PM PDT on Sep 21, 2011

The primary purpose of a passport is to identify travelers who are properly documented to travel abroad. Since this is a generally obvious division, it is very useful for that purpose. I can understand the argument the other way so far as how we treat an individual, but politic treatment of others is not the issue at hand--security is. Contrasted with the more invasive and totally unacceptable things we tolerate in the name of security, official notice of a basic truth is really a small thing. I would also like to know why those who claim to champion LGBT rights are often the same people who treat them as if they were flat, single-trait characters out of an allegory (ditto for members of most any minority group that becomes the focus of political attention). It makes me think of the friend with whom I compare thoughts when trying to sort out my own position on some of these things. I see him as a kind, thoughtful, talented, pleasant, and intelligent person with whom I can safely have a candid conversation about most anything and walk away with a more complete understanding than I had when I started. Specifically, I do not see him as a GAY MAN who has a few other attributes, which is how I perceive the treatment of such folks even in the most liberal of circles. How can we work past the issues when we insist on making that the defining attribute in spite of it being only a small portion of the person being discussed? While I am at it, my position on the matter here an

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