Gender neutral option added to Canadian passports

Canadian passport tucked insidebungee cord of backpack
Photo credit: Getty

Transgender travellers will be breathing a little bit easier, with Canada becoming the latest country to allow residents to identify as gender neutral on their passports.

The changes, which come into force on Thursday (local time), will allow Canadians to mark their gender as 'X', rather than 'M' (male) or 'F' (female).

It's the first country in the Americas to bring in gender neutral passports, but not the world - New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan, Denmark, Malta, Germany also offer the 'X' category.

In a statement, Ahmed Hussen, Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, said it's an important step to take.

"All Canadians should feel safe to be themselves, live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose," he said.

"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 changes have been welcomed by LGBT advocacy groups in the country as an important first step, but it's not the "ultimate solution" to the struggles many trans people face.

"In order to successfully increase the safety of non-binary, intersex and trans folks, Canada needs to do more work to lobby internationally to remove gender markers on passports, as well as break down existing barriers that are preventing access to gender autonomy in our country," Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale, told The Guardian.

She said trans travellers still face a lot of barriers when it comes to their ID.

New Zealand brought in non-binary passports, also marked with an 'X', in 2012.