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Canada issues new passports with gender neutral option

(Pixabay/StockSnap)A third gender option will be included on Canadian passports starting Aug. 31.

The Canadian government has announced that it will start issuing passports and other immigration documents with a gender neutral option at the end of the month.

Starting Aug. 31, passports and other immigration documents will include the new gender designation "X" for citizens who identify as being neither male nor female, according to Canada's immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen.

"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," Hussen said in a statement on Thursday, as reported by Russia Today.

"An 'X' will make it easier for people who do not identify as female ('F') or male ('M') to acquire passports and other government-issued documents that better reflect their gender identity," the statement continued.

Some experts have expressed concern that those who mark "X" on their passport could run into some problems when trying to enter other countries.

"I'm really worried that in countries like Uganda and Jamaica, where being LGBT is illegal and there's laws on the books that prosecute people for identifying as trans, that this could leave people open to arbitrary detention, it could leave them open to scrutiny at airports, degrading treatment," said Adrienne Smith, a Toronto immigration lawyer who specializes in transgender legal issues.

Canada has been stepping up its efforts to introduce measures that embrace nontraditional forms of gender expression.

In June, the Canadian province of Ontario passed a bill, known as Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act of 2017, that would allow the government to seize children from families that refuse to accept a child's chosen gender identity or gender expression.

The government has also recently amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.

In July, the government allowed Fallon Aubee, a man who identifies as a woman, to serve his life sentence for first-degree murder in a British Columbia women's prison.

That same month, a baby in British Columbia became the first to be issued with the first ever "unknown" gender identity health card, after the child's parent fought to raise the infant with a neutral gender.

The parent also petitioned the government to have the gender omitted from the baby's birth certificate and other government documents.

Canada was not the first country to introduce the third gender option on passports and other identification cards. According to the New York Times, a third gender option is available on official documents from Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan.

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