Gender “X” is part of the government's LGBTQ initiatives.
Credit: Geoff Robins/Getty Images

Canadians will be able select a third gender option on their passports, as part of the government's push to ensure equal rights for transgender people and other residents with non-conforming gender identities, starting Thursday.

Instead of having only the options of “F” for female or “M” for male in the gender category, Canadians will be able to write “X.”

“All Canadians should feel safe to be themselves, live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose,” Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen said in a statement. “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.”

The new initiative is part of a broader plan from the Canadian government to ensure equality for all gender non-conforming people. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a special adviser for LGBTQ issues, and all government-issued documents will soon be gender neutral, according to The Telegraph. A bill passed earlier this year amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit people from discriminating against others on the grounds of gender identity or gender expression.

Trudeau has been an outspoken advocate for the rights of LGBTQ people, becoming the first prime minister to participate in the pride parade when he marched in 2016.

“It's all about how we celebrate the multiple layers of identities that make Canada extraordinary and strong,” he told reporters at this year's parade in Toronto.

Canada is not the first country to allow for a third option on government-issued identification: Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand, and Pakistan offer a third option, The New York Times reported, citing LGBTQ legal advocacy group Lambda Legal.