In a landmark decision, the Australian government has agreed to let people with intersex conditions list their gender as ‘X' on passports. Transgender people will also be able to list the gender with which they identify.
The Guardian reports that Australian citizens previously had to choose male or female, and could not identify as a gender other than their birth one without surgery. Now, transgender Australians will be able to list their identified gender on passports as long as they can provide a doctor's statement. Senator Louise Pratt points out that the new provisions are especially important for travelers, who may have had problems at checkpoints because the gender listed on their passport didn't match their appearance. She says,
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', that they can.
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd also pointed out that the new guidelines remove one form of discrimination against transgender and intersex people. In the essay "Cisgender Privilege: On the Privileges of Performing Normative Gender," Evin Taylor lists some questions that bring to light this discrimination. They include:
Can you be reasonably sure whether to check the M or F box on a form?
Can you be reasonably sure that your choice of checked box on such forms will not subject you to legal prosecution of fraud or misrepresentation of identity?
Can you provide government identification without risking ridicule for your name or legal sex status?
Can you obtain a passport and travel without government employees asking explicit questions regarding your genitals?
The new Australian rules should make it easier for transgender and intersex people to answer yes to the first three questions. Unfortunately, the requirement of a doctor's note still leaves the final question in doubt. The passport reforms are a big step in the right direction, but Australia and the world at large have a ways to go before they can claim equality for people of all genders.