SAN FRANCISCO – The Transgender Law Center (TLC) applauds the U.S. Department of State’s new policy regarding changes to gender markers on U.S. Passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad. On June 9, 2010, the Department made it easier for transgender individuals to travel by removing the requirement that a transgender person must have sex reassignment surgery (SRS) in order to change their gender marker on their U.S. Passport.

The new policy states that to change their gender markers, applicants will need to present only certification that they have “undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.” For this, a physician must state that the applicant has had “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition to the new gender.” Determining what “appropriate clinical treatment” is will be based on recommendations of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).

The new policy will also apply to Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, which are birth certificates issued to foreign-born children of U.S. citizens.

In addition, applicants will be able to get a “two year limited validity passport” with a physician’s statement shows the applicant is in the process of gender transition. Under the previous policy, individuals could get a one-year provisional passport without a surgeon’s letter.

“We are absolutely thrilled about this change,” said Kristina Wertz, Legal Director of the Transgender Law Center. “The new policy is the first at the federal level to reflect a fuller understanding of the realities of transgender lives by recognizing that gender identity is not dependent upon anatomy or the ability to access expensive medical treatment.” Further, the policy is a critical step in addressing the anxiety that comes along with traveling with documents with the wrong gender marker.

TLC also applauds the State Department’s guidance to passport officials regarding the treatment of transgender applicants. The new policy requires that if the appropriate documentation is provided, officials “must not ask for additional medical information,” and that documentation regarding sex reassignment surgery “must not be requested.” Further, the policy requires officials to “[r]efer to the applicant by the pronoun appropriate to his/her new gender.”  TLC is hopeful that such guidance will go a long way in eliminating inappropriate, unnecessary, and embarrassing questions that transgender individuals are subjected to when changing their identity documents.

This important step comes thanks to tireless work by many LGBT advocates-notably the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Media Contact:
Kristina Wertz
Legal Director
Transgender Law Center

About TLC

The Transgender Law Center (TLC) is a civil rights organization advocating for transgender communities. TLC uses direct legal services, public policy advocacy, education, community building to transform California into a state that recognizes and supports the needs of transgender people and their families.