State Department Revoking Trans Women's Passports

trans passport

The State Department has refused to renew the passports of multiple transgender women, even though documents identifying them as female have already been approved, reports Them. 

Danni Askini, whose documents have read "female" since she transitioned in 1998 at age 16, was denied the right to renew her passport because "failed to disclose” that she was transgender, she told the site.

She said the U.S. Passport Office told her in June that after 20 years of having a passport that matched her gender identity, she needed to provide proof of gender transition.

After Donald Trump's administration put the term "transgender" on its banned word list for certain documents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and sought to disqualify trans people from serving in the military, these incidents are further evidence of the administration's hostility to trans citizens. 

For transgender Americans to obtain a passport that matches their gender identity, they must provide an ID and photo resembling their current appearance along with medical certification that indicates the transition has occurred. 

The passports of people who have completely physically transitioned are valid for 10 years as long as they've had "appropriate clinical treatment," and for someone still transitioning, documentation would be valid for two years.

“Make no mistake, this was an intentional action by the State Department to withhold recognizing my gender,” said Askini, who is executive director of the Gender Justice League.

She said she needed to flee her hometown of Seattle after receiving several death threats on anti-trans platforms and from local alt-right groups. Because her most recent passport was 10 years old, it was up for renewal.

After U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal's office put direct pressure on the passport agency, Askini was granted a temporary two-year passport that allowed her to fly to Sweden.

Askini is not alone. Janus Rose, a transgender technology researcher, said she has had a passport identifying her as female since November. Her name change was recently finalized, and she sent in paperwork along with her current passport to renew it with her new legal name. 

Then she received a phone call from a South Carolina passport processing center. A staff member there “basically told me that even though the government had changed my gender marker in the last year, that was a mistake,” Rose told Them.

She said the passport official stated that the State Department should have never allowed her to change her gender on her passport because the medical documentation she provided in November was invalid.

“This letter is something my clinic has been using as a boilerplate for years for so many people,” Rose told Them. “The clinic says I’m the first person to get a rejection.”

“It seems pretty clear that even if the policy hasn’t changed, something has changed in terms of guidance on how to enforce this — because it’s being enforced differently now,” Rose said. Her letter was from a nurse-practitioner at her clinic, which told her it's never needed a letter written by a physician instead. 

When asked for comment, a State Department official told Them, “When a passport applicant presents a certification from a medical physician stating that the applicant has undergone or is receiving appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition, a new passport will be issued with an updated gender marker." 

“Every applicant who applies for a U.S. passport undergoes extensive vetting of their identity, claim to U.S. citizenship and entitlement to a passport,” the official said, "Sexual reassignment surgery is not a prerequisite for updating the gender marker in a passport and documents proving sexual reassignment surgery are not required.”

While Askini and Rose have physically transitioned, many transgender people do not do so due to its prohibitive cost, and some do not desire a physical transition. 

However, Rose believes the vetting has become much more rigorous for transgender applicants.

“I spoke to someone the other day, a cis person, who had their legal name changed and it was fine,” she explained. “There was no asking for additional documentation or proof. She literally did the same thing just the other day. That’s what this is about. A cis person can go in and make this simple change, and a trans person cannot.”

Askini was shocked that the State Department even knew she was transgender. She feels the rejection had its roots in hostility to trans people. 

“None of my documentation would disclose my trans status,” says Askini, whose transition was granted by a judge when she was still a minor. As a safety measure in relation to a sex trafficking case, all of her child welfare records were sealed. “No databases that are local, state, or federal should note my gender as anything other than female.”

“I believe that the Trump administration or someone in the Seattle Passport Office has targeted me politically and politicized the process for obtaining passports,” said Askini, noting that she is well-known as a trans activist.“Their actions and statements are not consistent with the actual letter of the code related to trans people.”

Rose agreed. “I think there’s an internal policy change to make it as difficult as possible for trans people,” she said. “The goal is to create friction. They can’t change all these laws right away, but they can make it really hard.”

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