X marks the spot

Australian passports will now have three gender options: male, female and

The government made the announcement Thursday, Sept 13, saying the new
guidelines were meant to remove discrimination against transgender people.

From now on trans folk and those who are ambiguous about their
gender can simply mark the gender category with an “X” — if they have a doctor’s letter.

The Associated
reports that Senator Louise Pratt, whose partner was born female but now
identifies as a man, was behind the move. Pratt said the
reform was a major improvement for travellers who face questioning and detention

at airports because their appearance does not match their gender status.

“’X’ is
really quite important because there are people who are indeed genetically
ambiguous and were probably arbitrarily assigned as one sex or the other at
birth. It’s a really important recognition of people’s
human rights that if they choose to have their sex as ‘indeterminate,’
they can.”

The United Nations
has applauded Australia’s actions. The new high commissioner for human rights,
Navi Pillay, urged other nations to confront legal discrimination against
transgender and intersex people “in a systematic and effective way.” She said that Australia “has placed itself in the vanguard of change and has
scored an important victory for human rights.”

So, do other
countries have similar guidelines?

is the first government anywhere in the world to recognize the
intersex minority. In the United Kingdom, passport holders can change their gender with a letter from a medical practitioner; gender reassignment surgery is not a requirement. The United States also shifted
to a similar position in 2010.

And Canada? I don’t
think we are there yet, but then again I cannot find my
way around the Passport Canada website.

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