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Airlines cater for pax who are neither male nor female

April 8, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

United Airlines has become the first US carrier to offer “non-binary gender options” for customers who are neither male nor female, a division seemingly overlooked for much of human history.

The category includes those who would prefer not to specify their gender.

United is catering for transgender and non-binary travellers by offering “Mx” as a title option, as opposed to the usual M (male) and F (female). The airline is also offering U (undisclosed) or X (unspecified).

“United is determined to lead the industry in LGBT inclusivity, and we are so proud to be the first US airline to offer these inclusive booking options for our customers,” United’s chief customer officer Toby Enqvist declared.

The decision provoked a certain amount of scepticism and mirth on Twitter. One reader tweeted that he identified as a suitcase and wanted to travel free.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently approved a new international best-practice standard to accommodate passengers who identify as non-binary.

American, Delta, Southwest and Alaska airlines have all said they will follow the trend, according to Britain’s Independent.

Male, female and intersex symbolism


Both Australia and Canada can now issue passports to “sex and gender diverse applicants”, identifying them as M (male), F (female) or X (indeterminate/intersex/unspecified). Most countries’ passports still specify just M or F.

Canada was first to make the radical sex change to its passports, to include indeterminate/intersex/unspecified, to the delight of a Canadian lobby group named LGBTQQIP2SAA, standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Queer, Intersex, Pansexual, Two-spirit (2S), Androgynous, Asexual and Ally.

Australia may take the process a step further: landmark legislation making gender an optional extra on birth certificates is now set to pass the Tasmanian Parliament.

In Germany, since the start of this year, people who do not fit the biological definition of male or female can now choose to describe themselves as “diverse” on official documents. Those choosing the option need a doctor’s certificate to register.

Above: United’s new category caters for travellers who are neither male nor female


The law change also accommodates people who switch from male to female or vice versa.

The United Nations says up to 1.7% of the world’s population are “born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies”. Other estimates place it as fewer than that, perhaps 1 in 2000.

The UN continues: “Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. In some cases, intersex traits are visible at birth while in others, they are not apparent until puberty.

“Some chromosomal intersex variations may not be physically apparent at all.”

According to the UN, “between 0.05% and 1.7% of the population is born with intersex traits – the upper estimate is similar to the number of red-haired people”.

Written by Peter Needham

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