New Gender Neutral Option Available On Canada Passports

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If you see a passport marked with an "X," you might be curious to know what it means.

Turns out that "X" refers to gender identity. Instead of the traditional "M" or "F," folks with Canadian passports will be able to decline to list their genders on the official documents starting Aug. 31, according to a press release from Canada's Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

On Aug. 24, the ministry announced the change, which had reportedly been in the works since November 2016 and is an extension of legislative Bill C-16, which makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on gender.

"All Canadians should feel safe to be themselves, live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose," said the Honorable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, according to the news release. 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."

More information will be available on Aug. 31. Though the ministry will initially use what they referred to as "interim measures" to implement the change as quickly as possible, they are working to make the "X" designation official and permanent.

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"As Canadians, we know that protecting and promoting fundamental human rights is an imperative for governments and individuals alike," the ministry said in the release. "This includes gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation."

This move is the latest in the nation's efforts to accommodate varying gender and sexual identities, following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's appointment of Randy Boissonnault as a special adviser on LGBT issues.

After C-16 passed in June and added gender identity expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act, many folks had been expecting some changes.

"The passage of this bill really represents an acknowledgement and welcome to transgender [and] non-conforming people in Canada, and so we are at least in theory, at least in principle, officially equal citizens," explained lawyer Nicole Nussbaum, who specializes in issues related to gender identity, according to CTV.

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Nussbaum said shortly after the bill's passage that the change would "address the really desperate situation that many trans and gender non-conforming, non-binary people experience as a result of discrimination, harassment and violence."

Canada joins a number of other countries including Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan, which also have a third option on their official identification documents for those who do not wish to make "M" or "F," notes The New York Times.

Sources: Canada's Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, CTV, The New York Times / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: Alan Levine/FlickrJeff Nelson/Flickr

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