State Department: Transgender passport holder policy remains unchanged

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The State Department on Thursday said its policy towards transgender passport holders has not changed after changes to its website sparked concern.

The National Center for Transgender Equality on Wednesday said, “language concerning the process for changing gender markers on U.S. passports was altered or removed from the State Department’s website earlier this week.” The email the National Center for Transgender Equality sent to its supporters noted “the longstanding page regarding ‘Gender Designation’ policies — in place since 2010 — has been removed, and a new but similar page concerning what they now call ‘Sex Designation’ has been put in its place with significant changes.”

“However, the underlying policy remains unchanged,” said the National Center for Transgender Equality.

“These changes to the website are likely to cause confusion about the actual policy for changing gender markers,” it added.

The State Department since 2010 has not required trans people to undergo sex-reassignment surgery in order to update the gender marker on their passport. The State Department’s website states trans passport applicants must provide an ID “that resembles your current appearance,” a passport photo “that resembles your current appearance” and “proof of legal name change (if applicable.)”

“We want to state unequivocally that there has been no change in policy or in the way we adjudicate passports for transgender applicants,” a State Department official told the Washington Blade on Thursday. “We provide passport services to many thousands of transgender people each year, and the Department of State is committed to treating all passport applicants equally with dignity and respect.”

The official said the State Department “added language to make our use of terms consistent and accurate and to eliminate any confusion customers may have related to passport application process.” The official added the reference to “Sex Designation” has been removed from its website.

“We apologize for inadvertently including some language which may be considered offensive and have updated the website to remove it,” the official told the Blade.

The National Center for Transgender Equality on Thursday acknowledged on its Twitter page that a State Department official “has responded to our concerns and has confirmed that the policy has not changed, and has apologized for the inclusion of offensive and misleading language.”

The National Center for Transgender Equality in July said the State Department’s policy towards trans passport holders had not changed after reports indicated trans women’s passports had been retroactively revoked.

Lambda Legal in 2015 filed lawsuit in federal court in Denver against the State Department on behalf of Dana Zzyym, an intersex person who was unable to receive a passport that listed their sex as ‘X.’ The court in 2017 reopened Zzyym’s case.

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