Transgender women are reporting their passports are being retroactively revoked by the State Department, with requests for proof of transition.
Two trans women, Danni Askini and Janus Rose, told Them they recently experienced difficulties renewing their passports, one after having no such issues for two decades and the other having just obtained the document that identifies her as female in November.
Askini, the Seattle-based activist and executive director of Gender Justice League, transitioned in 1998, and all of her identity documents have listed her as female since. But when she went to renew her passport last month, attempting to flee to Sweden after receiving death threats from anti-trans bigots, she ran up against a wall.
The U.S. Passport Office, run by the State Department, told her she had “failed to disclose” she was transgender and would need to provide proof of transition.
“Make no mistake, this was an intentional action by the State Department to withhold recognizing my gender,” Askini said. She further noted that she was disturbed to find that the State Department even knew she was trans, as her legal gender transition was granted by a judge while she was still a minor. The child welfare records were sealed, due to a sex trafficking case, in an effort to protect her identity.
She was granted a temporary two-year passport after Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s office put pressure on the agency on Askini’s behalf. She believes she was politically targeted.
Rose, who lives in New York, has held her passport with a female gender marker since November. She recently sent in paperwork following a legal name change to update that aspect of her document as well.
She soon received a call from a South Carolina passport processing center, telling her the State Department made a mistake in issuing her a passport showing her to be female, claiming the medical documentation she had supplied—a letter signed by a nurse practitioner—was not sufficient.
“This letter is something my clinic has been using as a boilerplate for years for so many people,” Rose said. “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,” she added.
“I think there’s an internal policy change to make it as difficult as possible for trans people. The goal is to create friction. They can’t change all these laws right away, but they can make it really hard.”
State Department policy states a person seeking a gender change on a passport must submit an ID “that resembles your current appearance,” as well as a recent passport photo, proof of legal name change if applicable, and a “medical certification that indicates you are in the process of or have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.”
Gender confirmation surgery is not required as part of that transition, simply proof that the individual has had, or is “in process of having, appropriate clinical treatment for transition to the updated gender.”
“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,” 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. Sexual reassignment surgery is not a prerequisite for updating the gender marker in a passport and documents proving sexual reassignment surgery are not required.”
The move to make it harder to obtain or update a passport would coincide with other Trump administration efforts, including revoking public accommodation rights from transgender students, attempting to keep trans people out of the military, making it easier to fire trans people on the basis of their gender identity, and rolling back protections for trans inmates.
David Stacy, the Director of Government Affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, told Axios the reports of passport revocation are “disturbing.”
“American citizens deserve to have their gender identity respected,” Stacy added.
The National Center for Transgender Equality has said it is investigating the situation.