The policy change, announced June 9, lifts the provision that an individual must have completed sexual-reassignment surgery before a passport can reflect his or her desired sex.
Individuals looking to change the sex on their passport must now submit a certification from a physician confirming the person has undergone “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.”
The regulation also applies to changing a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, the equivalent of a birth certificate for U.S. citizens born outside the country.
Individuals just beginning transition are eligible for temporary two-year passports.
The policy only requires a healthcare provider’s certification and no information on the actual treatments.
The validating doctor must be familiar with the individual’s transition process and can be an internist, psychiatrist, endocrinologist, urologist or gynecologist.
Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, hailed the policy change, noting it adds a needed layer of protection for transgender Americans who often face safety issues when traveling in countries that are hostile to the transgender community.
“Adoption of this safety-focused policy is a giant step forward in protecting transgender Americans abroad and in fulfilling the State Department’s commitment to protect all Americans when they travel, work or live overseas,” Silverman said.
Kathy Padilla, a local transgender activist, said the new regulation will have a considerable impact on the transgender community.
“I think this is a very significant policy change that’s going to affect a lot of people’s lives positively,” she said. “It’s going to ensure that people can travel safely and can also help people in finding employment because they won’t be outed during hiring decisions when they use a passport as identification.”
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, applauded the Obama administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “for understanding the need for this change and then responding to make travel safer for transgender people.”
“This shows how changes in government policy directly impact people’s lives, in this case, for the better,” she said.
The NCTE acknowledged several individuals it said worked for years to bring about such a policy change, including U.S. Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, Council for Global Equality, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center and the Human Rights Campaign. NCTE also noted that the American Medical Association and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health were influential in the institution of the policy.
Jen Colletta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.