Nepalese travelers no longer have to choose between “male” or “female” when applying for a passport. The country has introduced a new “other” option, marked as “O” on a passport, for when a binary gender system doesn’t accurately represent the traveler.
This achievement has been a long time coming. Back in 2007, a judge ordered Nepalese authorities to include a third gender option in citizenship documents for those who do not wish to identify as either male or female or for those who identify as something other than the gender they were assigned at birth. In 2011, Nepal included a third gender in its census and in 2013, Nepal became one of just a handful of countries in the world to recognize a third gender.
Now, Bhumika Shrestha, a gay and trans rights activist, became the country’s first citizen to travel with the letter “O” stepping in for the more familiar “M” for male or “F” for female, reports The Advocate. Shrestha, who was born male but identifies as female, used her new passport to travel to Taiwan for the 2015 International Lesbian and Gay Association’s Asia conference. However, travelers who identify as third gender still face discrimination, especially when visiting countries that refuse to accept their identity.
The arm of the United Nations that helps determine international travel document guidelines, recommends that countries offer passports designated as either M for male, F for female, or X for indeterminate gender. As The Advocate notes, Australia, New Zealand, and Malta all allow for X passports in some cases. Court decisions in Pakistan and India both cleared the way for people who identify as indeterminate gender to do so on national identity cards, although it is unclear whether passports have yet been issued with a third gender option. In the United States, an intersex Colorado resident is currently suing the government to put a third-gender option on passports after being denied a passport for refusing to identify as either male or female.