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White House Response to Non-Binary Gender Petition

10464169_10201853698937124_3923966816234564280_nDon’t get too excited, folks. The response was about as disappointing as you might expect.

Thank you for your petition requesting that the executive branch legally recognize genders outside of the male-female binary and provide an option for these genders on all legal documents and records.

We know how important this issue is, and we understand the profound impact, both symbolic and otherwise, of having official documents that accurately reflect an individual’s identity. These documents play an essential, functional role, but also demonstrate the measure of dignity and respect afforded to our nation’s citizens. We cannot overstate the care and seriousness that should be brought to bear on the issue.

We recognize the importance of gender identification in particular and the Obama Administration is working to modernize federal policies in this area. For example, in 2010, the U.S. Department of State made it easier for individuals to update the gender marker in their passports. And last year, the Social Security Administration followed suit by simplifying the process for individuals to change the gender marker on their social security cards to reflect their identity accurately.

As you can imagine, there is considerable variance across agencies and levels of government. And so while the Obama Administration wants to make sure that official documents reflect the identities of the Americans who hold them, we believe proposals to change when and how gender is listed on official documents should be considered on a case-by-case basis by the affected federal and state agencies. However, that consideration must be informed by best practices and a commitment to honoring individuality and ensuring fairness.

Thank you again for your petition. We appreciate your input and the opportunity to convey our shared commitment.

It really just strikes me that the person who wrote this response (Roy Austin, Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity in the Domestic Policy Council) doesn’t have an understanding of non-binary sex, much less gender. Like how babies are born with “ambiguous” genitalia and there’s no legal option for designating their sex as something other than strictly male or female. (Not to mention the many inherent problems with designating sex at birth anyway.)

The original petition wasn’t worded super well anyway.

Legal documents in the United States only recognize “male” and “female” as genders, leaving anyone who does not identify as one of these two genders with no option. Australia and New Zealand both allow an X in place of an M or an F on passports for this purpose and the UK recognizes ‘Mx’ (pronounced as Mix or sometimes Mux) as a gender-neutral title.

This petition asks the Obama Administration to legally recognize genders outside of the male-female binary (such as agender, pangender, genderfluid, and others) and provide an option for these genders on all legal documents and records.

So yeah, an expected disappointing response. I’m glad there’s a way for us to engage our government more directly and show our numbers, but I had hoped for more.

Comments

  1. Tuesday Meadows says

    With impending death of ENDA the transgender community needs protection against discrimination disguised as religious freedom. 2016 is coming at us like a truck getting ready to hit a deer.

  2. 1arritechno . says

    I believe, any positive change will occur from one of two catalysts in the United States : The law makers will eventually yield to Protests by its Citizens,, OR the Government will be driven into reform by embarrassment in being the last democratic country in the world, to address gender identification & discrimination . Going on the rate of change in other First World Countries ; looks like it will be the latter & likely be initiated in the US,, within a few years !

  3. says

    Is anyone allowed to have an X on their passport in Australia and New Zealand or Mx in the U.K.?

    Also, why was the petition for a third designator, as opposed to simply removing all such designators?

  4. Abdul Alhazred says

    … It really just strikes me that the person who wrote this response (Roy Austin, Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity in the Domestic Policy Council) doesn’t have an understanding of non-binary sex, much less gender. …

    You give whoever really wrote it (not Roy Austin who merely signed it) way too much credit.

    You just got a “bedbug letter”.

  5. outeast says

    Agreed with others: the best, simplest, and most appropriate solution would simply be to remove gender as an identifier altogether.

    Frankly, having gender identified is not actually very useful. ID-wise, what it its utility? At best it’s simply a really, really weak kind of biometric marker – and one that is actually non-trivial to test in any case where gender identification is itself non-trivial. Seriously, if an official sees a female identification document held by a transgender male, how are they going to make any use of the gender datum for ID purposes anyway? Perform an on-the-spot chromosome test?

  6. =8)-DX says

    @Matthew White #3 and others:

    Also, why was the petition for a third designator, as opposed to simply removing all such designators?

    Multiple specific identification markers on passports and other documents help with their primary goal: enabling the identification of their holder. A debate about whether or not gender identification is a valid criterium of choice is a much harder argument to have: most people would I guess intuitively consider gender a quick-and-easy marker to help identify people accordint to their appearance.

    I haven’t ever worked in passport control myself, but playing the rather depressing but fun indie title Papers Please I remember gender being a great help when checking the validity of documents.

  7. Tigger_the_Wing, asking "Where's the rain?" in a weird Irish summer says

    I would think that these days, with computers being what they are, we would do better to abandon sex/gender markers in favour of holographic photographs.

    Much easier to see if the legal document really belongs to the person claiming ownership.

    More than ever, I’m tempted to respond to people asking “Male or Female” with “Sometimes”.

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