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.
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.