As of now, Canadians are now able to identify as gender neutral on their passports. This change comes after rights campaigners lobbied to get the option instated. Canada follows in the footsteps of numerous countries, including Australia, India and Germany who provide a third option. However, Canada is the first country in the Americas to allow residents to use an ‘X’ category, instead of the usual male and female.
Canada’s Immigration Minister, Ahmed Hussen, realised a statement on the change, ““All Canadians should feel safe to be themselves, live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose.”
He continued, “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.”
LGBT human rights and advocacy groups welcomed the change in Canada. Helen Kennedy, executive director of LGBT human rights trust Egale, recognised; “Canada is taking an important and positive first step by acknowledging the challenges faced by non-binary, intersex and trans individuals.”
“Many people will benefit from having the option of choosing ‘X’ as their gender when they go to file for their passport. However, it is not the ultimate solution and the addition of a gender-neutral option, as Canada is implementing it, does not address many of the underlying issues being faced by these folks.”
Despite Kennedy’s positivity, she went on to stress that the new ‘X’ category was not a suitable final solution for non-binary, intersex and trans people. She also probed whether gender categorisation was needed on passports at all, despite it currently being mandatory following the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
She stated, “In order to successfully increase the safety of non-binary, intersex and trans folks, Canada needs to do more work to lobby internationally to remove gender markers on passports, as well as break down existing barriers that are preventing access to gender autonomy in our country.”
However, some are fearful as to how other countries will accept the ‘X’ categorisation when visiting. Countries such as Jamaica and Uganda deem being gay as a criminal act and people are prosecuted for identifying as trans. People are worried they would be discriminated by airport staff, degraded, or even attacked.
Gender-Neutral Passports for the UK
Campaigners in the UK have also suggested the introduction of a similar passport category revamp like Canada. Trans and non-binary people are often subject to ridicule and questions about their gender because of the way in which it is recorded in official documents, like passports.
Head of Trans Inclusion at Stonewall, Rebecca Stinson, said: “It’s great to see Canada introduce a gender-neutral option on passports and we would like this approach to be adopted by the UK.”
Due to the limitations on gender choices when filling in passport paperwork, she commented that “this leaves many trans people feeling afraid to travel for fear of intrusive questioning. We need this to change. We want everyone to be recognised for who they are and for national and local government documents and procedures to accurately reflect gender identity.”