White House Unveils Inclusive Policy Changes on Trans Day of Visibility

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds passports while waiting to cross at the San Ysidro border crossing
The federal government is following through on its pledge to allow folks to use an “X” gender marker on their passports.
REUTERS/Fred Greaves

Marking International Transgender Day of Visibility, the Biden administration rolled out a series of announcements aimed at uplifting trans Americans — including a long-awaited policy change at the State Department to allow folks to select “X” as the gender marker on their passport applications.

“Transgender people are some of the bravest people in our nation,” the White House said in a written statement on March 31. “But nobody should have to be brave just to be themselves. Today, the Biden Administration announced new actions to support the mental health of transgender children, remove barriers that transgender people face accessing critical government services, and improve the visibility of transgender people in our nation’s data.”

The State Department’s new passport policy — which will take effect on April 11 — was expected after the State Department announced last July that the “X” gender marker option would be forthcoming. The administration is working with airlines to make sure the new gender marker option is seamlessly implemented across air travel.

In another related move, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) — which is housed within the Department of Homeland Security — will add “X” gender marker options for Trusted Traveler programs and TSA PreCheck. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is also stepping in to give people an option for an “X” gender marker when filling out voluntary self-identification questions on employment discrimination complaints. The White House’s Office of Management and Administration will similarly add an “X” gender marker option for those who visit the White House.

The Department of Homeland Security is also unveiling other new initiatives intended to remove stigmatizing barriers impacting trans travelers. The TSA is updating its body scanners to reduce false alarms and pat-downs by replacing gender-based system with more accurate technology, which the agency says will “improve the customer experience of transgender travelers who have previously been required to undergo additional screening due to alarms in sensitive areas.”

Among other actions, the Biden administration announced a series of changes impacting trans youth. In response to several states scrubbing LGBTQ-related resources from their websites, the Department of Health and Human Services posted a new website featuring federal resources for trans and non-binary youth as well as their families and providers. Moreover, the White House is embarking on a clear effort to dispel false narratives about gender-affirming care with a handful of initiatives to inform providers, families, and others of the truth behind why the care is critically important.

The White House is also working to improve federal services and benefits to make them more inclusive. By the fall, the Social Security Administration will nix requirements that trans folks show proof of identity to update their gender in social security records, paving the way for easier access to retirement benefits, healthcare coverage, and job applications.

The slew of moves by the Biden administration coincide with a flood of anti-trans bills in State Legislatures across the United States — with most of them targeting transgender youth in sports and healthcare. Last year saw a whopping 147 anti-trans bills introduced across 34 states, according to the Human Rights Campaign, and the relentless attacks on trans youth have continued into this year.