How to handle the public relations challenge of operating a new two-pilot two-jet-engine airliner with a safety record far worse than that of a 50-year-old single-pilot piston-engine plane such as the Cessna 402 (when used in airline service)? United Airlines seems to have found a way. From a friend on Facebook:
I ❤️ #United #LGBTQ #nonbinary
What did the database programmers at United accomplish?
The U.S. airline will offer multiple gender options for customers booking flights, including M (male), F (female), U (undisclosed) and X (unspecified). United added that the title “Mx.” also will be available for travellers to select.
The gender option chosen by the passenger must correspond “with what is indicated on their passports or identification” in order to satisfy the Transportation Security Administration, United said. Anyone regardless of identification can choose the title “Mx.”
For whom can this work as a practical option, then?
More and more states have added gender options on identification. Oregon, California, Arkansas and Washington state currently offer a third gender option on birth certificates, while Washington, D.C., offers a third gender option on driver’s licenses. Most recently, the New York City Council announced it will offer “X” as a gender category for people who don’t identify as female or male.
What about for international travel? The U.S. Department of State offers a helpful page for those transitioning from one officially recognized “sex” to another. On the other hand, it seems that male/female are the only options. From “Victory! State Department Cannot Rely on its Binary-Only Gender Policy to Deny Passport to Nonbinary Intersex Citizen”:
The State Department denied Dana’s passport application because Dana could not accurately choose either male or female on the passport application form, and the form does not provide any other gender marker designation.
This is the second time Zzyym has won against the U.S. State Department for denying them a passport. In November, 2016, the same district court found the State Department had violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act and ordered the department to reconsider its binary-only gender policy.
The State Department doubled-down on its discriminatory male-or-female-only policy to deny Zzyym a passport, leading to today’s ruling.
So the nonbinary traveler making a domestic connection before an international flight would need a reservation with two genders: X for the domestic leg to correspond to the driver’s license and M or F for the international leg to correspond to the passport.
Backing up a bit… if the airline’s record must correspond to the gender stated on the passenger’s ID, did United have any choice but to task its database programmers with this project? Wouldn’t every airline have to invest in updating its systems to the modern world of gender-on-a-spectrum if the governments issuing IDs are changing their policies? So the PR folks at United are possibly even more brilliant for getting positive press for an expensive IT project that they were forced into doing.