THE Australian passport office has issued just 110 gender ‘X’ passports since they became available in 2002 – an average of seven a year.
In 2017-18 more than two million Australian passports were issued and the government estimated that about 57 per cent of the population, just over 14 million people, had one. The 2016 Census counted gender diversity for the first time, and while 1260 people listed themselves as “other” the Australian Bureau of Statistics says that’s likely to be a very low figure for a bunch of reasons.
In March last year Fremantle resident Sami became one of the few Aussies to be issued with a gender X passport, which has X (unspecified) instead of M or F in the gender section.
Sami says non-binary people are reluctant to get one in case they are refused entry to certain countries or get hassled at passport control.
“I am aware of someone with an X passport who was detained for some hours in Singapore,” Sami said.
“I am unsure whether they were deported back to Australia or let through; certainly they were subject to discrimination.
“Ironically this is more of an issue for gender-unspecified folx, rather than female-to-male or male-to-female folx, since it’s the third gender that is at issue.”
Misty Farquhar, vice chair of Transfolk WA, has also heard of people with gender X passports experiencing problems when crossing international borders.
Sami says a lack of support from Australian consulates also deters people taking up the gender-neutral passports, with people who’ve been robbed seemingly getting ahead of them in the queue.
Shortly after receiving a passport, Sami received a letter from Australia’s foreign affairs department saying there was little they can do to help overseas Aussies with gender X passports.
The international civil aviation organisation does permit ‘X’ sex passports, but ultimately it’s up to individual countries to decide who gets in.
Sami, a 50-something dual citizen, uses a British passport with gender ‘M’ when visiting the UK and other countries that don’t recognise a third gender on passports: “Ironically the UK doesn’t recognise a third gender on passports like Canada and Australia do, but they all have the same head of state.”
In August last year, Canada became the first country in the Americas to introduce a gender X option on passports, following the lead of Australia, Denmark, Germany, Malta, New Zealand and Pakistan. Farquhar says WA residents might also be reluctant to apply for a gender X passport because it’s inconsistent with their birth certificate.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK