Beginning in 2019, two major airlines started to offer travelers the option to choose “unspecified” or “undisclosed” as a gender option during the booking process. United Airlines was the first to introduce it in March 2019, while American Airlines followed suit in December 2019.
This move is a major step toward acknowledging people along the gender spectrum, including but not limited to transgender, intersex, nonbinary and gender nonconforming (GNC) identities.
United Airlines Offers Gender Neutral Travel
In March 2019, United Airlines made history as the first airline to add non-binary gender booking options, allowing customers to identify themselves as M (male), F (female), U (undisclosed) or X (unspecified). The airline also introduced the option to select the title “Mx” during the booking process, in addition to their pre-existing options of “Ms, Mrs, Miss, Mr, or Dr.”
As stated by United Airline’s Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist:
“United is determined to lead the industry in LGBT inclusivity, and we are so proud to be the first U.S. airline to offer these inclusive booking options for our customers,” said. “United is excited to share with our customers, whether they identify along the binary of male or female or not, that we are taking the steps to exhibit our care for them while also providing additional employee training to make us even more welcoming for all customers and employees.”
In a tweet from United, the airline wrote: “Fly how you identify.”
Fly how you identify. Our new non-binary gender options are now available.
— United Airlines (@united) March 22, 2019
American Airlines Offers Gender Neutral Travel
By December 2019, American Airlines also added gender-neutral booking options. American Airlines introduced the same gender options as United Airlines, including:
- M (male)
- F (female)
- U (Undisclosed)
- X (Unspecified)
As stated by American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller, “The airline wants all of our customers feel comfortable and welcome no matter how they self-identify.”
Importance of Gender Neutral Airline Options
In order to implement these changes, United Airlines in collaboration with the Human Rights Campaign embarked on training their employees on LGBT competency, gender norms, preferred pronouns and other ways to create an inclusive environment for both employees and customers.
Beck Bailey, of the Human Rights Campaign said, “It’s a significant step forward for non-binary individuals, so they are not faced with a mismatch between their ticketing information and their legal identification.”
With United Airlines and American Airlines moving toward more inclusive travel, other competitors like Delta, Alaska, JetBlue and Southwest have announced plans to update their booking processes to include gender neutral options as well.
Growing Recognition of the Gender Spectrum
In recent years, 15 states plus the District of Columbia introduced the option for residents to choose Male (“M”), Female (“F”) or Unspecified (“X”) on their driver’s license. In these states, citizens who do not identify as male nor female have the option to choose the unspecified option of “X”. For example, in 2017, Washington D.C. introduced “X” gender marker on identification cards as well as driver’s licenses.
In addition, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have announced their intent to incorporate gender neutral options within state IDs. Specifically:
- Pennsylvania is aiming for early 2020.
- Hawaii options will launch on July 1, 2020.
- New Jersey is aiming for early 2020 to comply with the Babs Siperstein Law. The Babs Siperstein Law, named after the transgender activist Barbra “Babs” Siperstein, which was signed into law by Governor Philip Murphy on February 1, 2019.
- Illinois is aiming for 2024 or sooner, depending on if (and when) it can rebid for a contract with a multinational identity solutions company who can incorporate nonbinary gender markers.
Internationally, many countries are introducing legislation to acknowledge nonbinary genders. For example, under a new law in Germany, citizens may select a third gender option on their licenses and IDs to be registered as intersex.
While it will take time to become ubiquitous, a rapidly growing number of airlines and industries are acknowledging the existence of a gender spectrum. For individuals who identify as transgender, intersex, nonbinary or gender non-conforming (GNC), this will create an inclusive future.
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