Canada is finally adopting a Gender Neutral Passport – The Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced that starting August 31, 2017, Canadians that they don’t identify as either male or female can indicate their sex as ‘x’ on their passports. The ‘x’ denotes an unspecified gender.

Gender Neutral Passport – Canada

This initiative is part of a federal mandate to allow individuals to identify their sex as ‘x’ on government issued documents which until now only offered “male” or “female.” These policy changes (Bill C-16) aim to defend the rights of transgender people and make it illegal to discriminate based on “gender identity or expression.”

Canada’s  Electronic Travel Authorizations, or eTAs, which became mandatory in 2016, already allows visitors a third choice under gender (‘Other’).

Its interesting to note that Canada is by no means a trailblazer in this regard. At least seven countries including Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan permit their citizens to choose a non-binary option on their passports.

Within Canada, some provinces have already adopted a gender neutral approach  – British Columbia become the first place in the world to issue a birth certificate without a gender marker. In Ontario, the third gender marker “X” is already in use on the province’s licences.

Traveling on a Gender Neutral Passport

I wonder how comfortable non-binary travelers would feel, presenting their gender neutral passport to an immigration officer or when applying for a visa. They would have to rely on the receiving authorities’ prejudice. Could this become another way for travelers to be targeted and vilified? I can think of several countries and their immigration officers where this could become a point of contention, harassment or yet another reason for expecting bribe.

Largely, these are my own unsubstantiated apprehensions, given that I have never been in that position. Would love to hear some reader feedback on this. Please leave a comment below.

Take Away

As a society we have a long way to go but I do recognize this initiative as a step in the right direction, to better reflect gender inclusiveness. Its important to note that Gender Neutral Passports and other government documents simply allow a person to indicate a non-binary gender, a voluntary process.

National Post article on the subject