Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Beginning this coming Thursday, Canadian passport holders will have a third option for identifying their gender: "M" for male, "F" for female or "X" for unspecified.
Canadian officials said the change is meant to offer transgender individuals the option of more accurately describing their gender identity without being forced to identify as their birth gender.
"All Canadians should feel safe to be themselves, live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose," Canadian Minister of Refugees, Immigration and Citizenship 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 decision makes Canada the ninth country in the world to offer a third category for gender identification on passports, according to the LGBT rights group Lambda Legal. Other nations that offer their citizens similar options include Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan.
In the United States, all federal forms require citizens to identify either as a man or woman. The process for switching genders is a long and expensive one in most states, though the District of Columbia has added a nonbinary gender status to its driver's licenses.
In a court case in Oregon filed by a transgender retired Army sergeant, a judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff, whose lawyers argued their client could not truthfully complete a passport application because neither "male" nor "female" was an accurate description of the individual's gender. The judge allowed the person to declare themselves of "unspecified" gender, the New York Times reported.