Air travelers will soon be able to choose a gender option other than “male” or “female,” indicating they identify as transgender or non-binary when buying their tickets.
Beginning June 1, members of Airlines for America, a trade group that represents most leading U.S. carriers, including Alaska, Southwest, and United Airlines, will allow customers to pick "unspecified" and "undisclosed" in addition to the traditional options “male” and “female.”
"US airlines value a culture of diversity and inclusion, both in the workplace and for our passengers and we work hard each day to accommodate the needs of all travelers, while delivering a safe, secure and enjoyable flight experience," the group said in a statement quoted by The New York Times.
Airlines for America said that it is up to individual airlines to choose when to make the changes. But on Twitter, United Airlines announced it plans to implement the changes soon: “In the coming weeks, customers will be able to select the gender with which they most closely identify during the booking process.”
Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines are also working on introducing the new gender options, representatives for the carriers said, according to the Times.
The move has been praised by LGBT activists: “Non-binary people face unnecessary, invasive and discriminatory scrutiny by airlines, airports and security services alike,” said Arli Christian, the state policy director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, who uses the pronoun “they.”
Christian added that the change “is an important step toward ensuring safe and smooth travel for all passengers regardless of their gender.”
Airlines for America’s announcement comes as gender-neutral forms of identification become more widely available across U.S. states.
In December, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio signed a measure into law adding an X designation to birth certificates, along with M for male and F for female.
"To all trans and nonbinary New Yorkers: We see you, hear you and respect you," the mayor's office said Dec. 29 on Twitter.
"Starting in 2019, all New Yorkers will be able to change their gender on their birth certificate to M, F or X — without a doctor's note."
Currently, seven states and jurisdictions have a similar "third" option available for drivers’ licenses: Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and California, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s ID Documents Center.
"In law, bedrock identity can only be sex for everybody or sex for nobody. And given that X provides a vehicle by which to avoid having one's sex registered in law, the situation is now sex for nobody,” he said.
He added: "To erroneously describe the X as a third gender is to give the impression that X is an innocent addition. But X is anything but a tiny alteration that affects a minuscule number of people while leaving undisturbed everybody else's legal status."
"Put bluntly, the apparently innocuous addition of an X results in the terms male and female no longer meaning for anybody that which they previously meant for everybody,” he emphasized. “In the eyes of the law, those long-familiar words now serve to obscure the very thing they formerly revealed: the body. As an ideology, gender audaciously helps itself to the language of the body.”
"As is the case with its bogus scientific claims, gender wears the words male and female as an effective and efficient disguise," he concluded.