Starting on Aug. 31, Canadians will have a new way to identify their sex on passports and other government documents: “X” will join the options of male and female.
The decision to allow the third category, indicating an “unspecified” sex, is intended to protect the rights of Canadian citizens to identify by the gender of their choice, the country’s immigration department said in announcing the change.
“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,” Ahmed Hussen, the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said in a statement Thursday.
The move is part of a broader push to embrace nontraditional forms of gender expression.
In November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a special adviser to coordinate governmentwide efforts to promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. A new law passed in June amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to include nondiscrimination protections for gender identity and gender expression.
Canada is not alone.
At least eight other countries offer a third option on passports or national identification cards, according to Lambda Legal, a nonprofit that promotes the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people. Those countries are: Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan.
The group is suing the U.S. State Department on behalf of a client who identifies as neither male nor female and is therefore unable to accurately complete a passport application.
Last year, a judge in Oregon granted a petition allowing Jamie Shupe of Portland, a retired Army sergeant, to identify as neither sex and instead be classified as nonbinary. At the time, experts described the ruling as groundbreaking. In July, Oregon began allowing residents to mark their sex on driver’s licenses as “not specified.”