Last week the US Department of State announced new guidelines for issuing passports to transgender people. Now applicants for a gender change on their passports submit certification from a physician that they have received clinical treatment their transition.
Under this new policy, gender reassignment is not required to make the passport change. Previously proof of an irreversible sex reassignment had to be provided.
Ted Heck, local transgender advocate and facilitator of the Richmond Transformers Female-to-Male Support Group, says there is universal agreement from fellow activists that this is a leap forward for trans people.
“It means that people are no longer placed in precarious situations in foreign countries, far from home and the safety net of allies, friends, and families,” Heck says.
“Really, it’s invaluable how it can contribute not only to the improvement of trans people’s ability to travel without hassle but also in their day-to-day lives,” he said. ”It allows us to have a form of ID that does not interfere with our ability to get employment. We can avoid harassment by law enforcement, bouncers at clubs, liquor store personnel and grocery clerks, among others.”
Organizations like the National Center for Transgendered Equality have been advocating policy changes regarding gender markers on passports for years. NCTE cited the previous policy called unnecessary attention to travelers whose appearance and gender marker did not match.
Heck says that a gender marker is unnecessary on identification documents such as driver’s licenses and passports.
“What purpose does it serve?” he says. ”There are many more reliable ways to identify people.”