Gender X: Now on Passports


Canadian government to allow gender 'X' on passports.

This past summer, the Canadian government made the decision to create an extra box for gender on all Canadian passports. Instead of seeing only M for male and F for female, there will now be an option 'X' for those who do not feel they identify as either gender. This 'X' option descends as the latest policy of Bill C-16, which was put in place to defend the rights of transgender Canadians and prevent discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Fellow countries: Australia, Denmark, Germany, Malta, New Zealand and Pakistan, have also established a 'X' gender on their federal passports. Ireland, Nepal, and India also have similar third options available for gender markers.

For some members of the transgender, non-binary, and intersex community, the addition of a 'X' gender option is a welcomed step forward in acknowledging the difficulties that LBGTQ+ people face while travelling. Furthermore, many feel that a legal document which recognizes a gender as non-binary further cements their true identity on an official platform while uniting both a Canadian identity and a non-conforming gender identity.

However, for others, the option of an 'X' label for their gender creates more issues. Many question why gender is even required on government documents. Currently, the International Civil Aviation Organization states that gender must be listed on passports and can only be presented as 'M', 'F', or 'X' for security purposes. Another issue arising out of gender 'X' is that most government issued identification needed to apply for a passport, such as a birth certificate, does not have an 'X' option, only 'M' or 'F'. Therefore, many in the transgender community fear there will be bureaucratic complication when trying to apply for an 'X' passport with 'M' or 'F' on other official documents.

Perhaps the most pressing issues concerning obtaining a gender 'X' passport is not what happens domestically, but when travelling abroad. The government of Canada currently states that it is those with a gender 'X' passport’s responsibility to ensure that the place they are travelling to is safe for LGBTQ+ members of society. 

Many fear that arriving in countries which are LGBTQ+ suppressive with an 'X' passport will result in refused entrance, targeting, detention, assault or even death. Although it is commendable on a domestic scale to have a non-binary gender option available on a federal document, many feel Canada must adjust other government documents to reflect gender inclusivity across the country on federal, provincial and municipal levels. Furthermore, activists groups argue that LGBTQ+ members will not have the freedom of traveling that cis-gender Canadians do until the federal government lobbies on an international level to ensure the safety and freedom of Canadian LGBTQ+ members travelling throughout the globe.