Last month, Grit Post told the story of Maria Voorhees, and the struggles transgender Americans face under the Trump administration. Both in terms of policy and social stigma, transgender people have suffered greatly in this political climate.
But new policies are further marginalizing the transgender community, this time as it relates to passports. Transgender women are being denied passport renewals based on their gender identity.
Other important notes: 1. I have already showed them a birth certificate with my current legal name (which it has been since 1999) and my legal gender as "Female". They claim this is not the "original" because I had previous names. The "original" documents no longer exist.
— Danni Askini (@danniaskini) June 30, 2018
One of the women denied was Danni Askini, executive director of the Gender Justice League. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) put direct pressure on the passport office on Askini’s behalf, granting her a temporary two-year passport allowing her to travel to Sweden.
But Askini isn’t the only case. There also is the case of a technology researcher named Janus Rose who was told, effectively, that the passport recognizing her gender had been issued in error and that clarification was being revoked.
Wow. The U.S. passport office just called and told me that due to an “error,” the government has *retroactively invalidated* the change of gender marker it authorized on my passport last year. They won’t renew my passport w/ correct name & gender until i submit a new doctors note
— ✨ 𝕵𝖆𝖓𝖚𝖘 𝕽𝖔𝖘𝖊 ✨ (@zenalbatross) July 25, 2018
“I have a feeling we are about to see more of this gatekeeping very soon,” tweeted Rose. Four days later, Askini’s passport renewal was denied.
This is a quiet reversal of an Obama-era policy that made passports easier to correct for transgender people than state-issued IDs in some areas, requiring only periodic physician statements that a person was undergoing or had undergone transition.
The State Department has not formally changed its policy, according to an official: “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.”
But this wasn’t the case for Rose, who provided the same boilerplate documentation her clinic gives to hundreds of other transgender patients.
And Askini was alarmed that the State Department knew she was transgender at all. She transitioned as a minor and her child welfare records were sealed as part of an unrelated matter.
“None of my documentation would disclose my trans status. No databases that are local, state, or federal should note my gender as anything other than female,” she said. “I believe that the Trump administration or someone in the Seattle Passport Office has targeted me politically and politicized the process for obtaining passports. Their actions and statements are not consistent with the actual letter of the code related to trans people.”
Which is certainly consistent with Trump Administration policy, and more broadly with Republican ideology. Trump alienated his own army by trying to ban transgender people from service, and proposed Ohio legislation would make it a felony for a caseworker or teacher to assist or even refuse to out a suspected transgender youth.
It’s even getting harder for transgender people to change their names. And now, quietly, it’s becoming more difficult to obtain the ability to freely leave the country.
NCTE has investigated recent concerns about passport processing for transgender people. Our full statement below: pic.twitter.com/OTjogXdH5H
— National Center for Transgender Equality (@TransEquality) July 28, 2018
The National Center for Transgender Equality has cautioned people against panicking, however. Their investigations have lead them to believe that these are coincidences, and not a pattern or policy shift. Rose is skeptical.
“I think there’s an internal policy change to make it as difficult as possible for trans people,” she said.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.