New Passport Rules for Transgender People

PassportTransgender people face an expensive, lengthy, and difficult process to change their identification documents to match their gender. But one piece of this process just got a little easier.

The State Department now has new passport regulations for transgender people. Passport issuance reflecting a transgender person’s preferred gender is now based on “certification from an attending medical physician that the applicant has undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.” Those in the process of gender transition will be issued limited-validity passports.

Previously, securing a new gender marker on a passport required sex reassignment surgery. But sex reassignment surgery is very expensive, and not all transgender people consider it a necessary aspect of transition. Transgender people should be able to be legally classified as their gender, even if they cannot afford or chose not to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

The new policy is based on recommendations from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). The American Medical Association recognizes WPATH as the authority in transgender health, putting some extra heft behind their recommendations. The policy goes into effect immediately.

One reason to celebrate this change is the increased protection of transgender travelers. Previously, transgender travelers could be in danger when visiting countries with a passport in contrast with their appearance. Now, transgender people will have an easier time getting a passport that reflects their identity and appearance, protecting them from dangerous or awkward situations.

The National Center for Transgender Equality made a statement explaining their involvement in advocating the State Department to adjust their requirements for changing gender markers on passports. In response to the change, Mara Keisling, Executive Director of NCTE, commented: “This shows how changes in government policy directly impact people’s lives, in this case, for the better.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons