Is the Trump Administration Trying to Discourage Trans Travelers?

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The State Department web page that once guided transgender Americans on how to update their gender on U.S. passports was removed and replaced with a less helpful one this week, reports the National Center for Transgender Equality. This comes after the department revoked multiple trans women's passports, even though documents identifying them as female had already been approved.

Although the current passport gender marker policy, which allows trans people to change their M or F without undergoing gender-confirmation surgery as long as a physician states they had transitioned through clinical treatment, has not changed, the language explaining the policy has become confusing.

“While ultimately pointless, this move seems designed to frighten, confuse, and keep transgender people from exercising their full rights under the current policy — the same policy we fought for and won in 2010," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a statement. "Transgender people can and absolutely should continue to update and renew their passports. That is our right and that should always be our right.”

The State Department has taken down the “Gender Designation” web page that outlined the process for changing passports to match gender identity and replaced with a "Sex Designation Change" page.

The new page has a number of changes. Links to information from the American Medical Association and the World Professional Association of Transgender Health have been removed. A new paragraph underscores that people in the process of transition are only granted two-year provisional passports. Another new passage highlights that the State Department exclusively recognizes sex, not gender identity. 

"A U.S. passport does not list the bearer's gender identity," it reads. "The sex marker on your U.S. passport is based on your evidence of U.S. citizenship and identity, including a medical certification of sex change. The sex marker may not match the gender in which you identify."

In keeping with this outlook, most uses of the term "gender" have been replaced with the word "sex."

Janus Rose, a transgender technology researcher who had her passport revoked in July, told Them, "Even if the policy hasn’t changed, something has changed in terms of guidance on how to enforce this."

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

After coverage on the website change by a number of news outlets, the State Department announced it will return the page to its original language.

“With regard to the web update, we added language to make our use of terms consistent and accurate and to eliminate any confusion customers may have related to the passport application process,” Virgil Carstens, press officer at the Bureau of Consular Affairs, told Into. “We apologize for inadvertently including some language which may be considered offensive and are updating the website to remove it.”

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