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Canada adds another sex category to passports, government documents

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Starting Thursday, 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 Canadians to identify by the gender of their choice, the country’s immigration department said in announcing the change. Ahmed Hussen, the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said in a statement that the designation was added to advance “equality for all Canadians regardless of gender identity or expression.”.

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 government efforts to promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. A law passed in June amended the 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 United States 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 June, Washington, D.C., added a gender-neutral identifier to drivers’ licenses and identification cards, and in July, Oregon began allowing residents to mark their sex on driver’s licenses as “not specified.”

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