For transgender and non-binary people, selecting the "male" or "female" gender marker on official documents can be both inaccurate and distressing. To combat this issue and broaden gender options for everyone, United Airlines is altering their booking channels and user profiles to include non-binary gender options, according to a press release. United Airlines' new gender options encompass trans and non-binary identities for a more inclusive travel experience.
On Friday, March 22, United Airlines announced in a press release that it has become the first airline to offer passengers non-binary gender options and titles. Here's how it works: in areas where customers traditionally just had the option to describe themselves as "M" for "Male" and "F" for "Female," customers can now also select "U" for "Undisclosed" or "X" for "Unspecified," corresponding with what is marked on their identification. Customers can also select "Mx." instead of just "Mr.," "Mrs.," and "Ms." The new options are now available.
United's Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist called the booking options "inclusive" and said in a press release that United was committed to taking steps to be "welcoming for all customers and employees." The release read in part,
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.
To implement these news changes, United partnered with organizations like The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention non-profit for LGBTQ youth, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an LGBTQ civil rights advocacy group. The United press release says these groups were integral for employee training initiatives that dealt with pronoun use, the persistence of gender norms, and LGBTQ competency in the workplace in order to make United an "inclusive space for both customers and employees."
Amit Paley, CEO & Executive Director of The Trevor Project, said in the press release that The Trevor Project was "thrilled" to work with United on making sure the airline and its employees maintain a "safe and inclusive" work and travel experience for LGBTQ customers and employees. Paley said:
The Trevor Project is grateful for United Airlines' support of our life-saving work on behalf of LGBTQ youth. We are thrilled to bring Trevor's expertise on the mental health of LGBTQ people to United to ensure its employees maintain safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ employees and guests.
As expected, people on Twitter are reacting to the news. Twitter user @itsjustira wrote, "It's good to see that major companies are catching up with the reality that nonbinary people exist. I look forward to being able to exercise this option next time I fly." Another Twitter user, @LittleMissLizz, tweeted, "Bravo, @united. Inclusivity matters."
According to USA Today, United's change comes after two trade groups, Airlines for America in the USA and the global International Air Transport Association, approved a best-practices standard that suggests accommodation for travelers using non-binary IDs. Four of country's biggest airlines — American, Delta, Southwest, and Alaska — plan to follow United's lead and the suggestions of the trade groups to implement non-binary gender options, per USA Today.
While the U.S. Census doesn't keep data on trans and non-binary Americans (or lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer Americans, for that matter), many countries, states, and jurisdictions are moving to officially recognize non-binary identities. In 2017, California signed a bill recognizing a third gender option on legal document — in the same year, Canada introduced a gender neutral passport option. In 2018, New York City added a third gender option to birth certificates, joining Oregon, California, Washington, and New Jersey, states that provide the same option.
As states and cities become more gender inclusive, it's important that companies and organizations do too. It's one less thing you have to worry about when traveling, at least.