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Friday, September 14, 2018

An Update On Recent Changes Made To State Department Web Pages

For the past couple of days, there has been a lot of talk and concern about the State Department’s passport policy because of changes that have been made on their website. This is after a year and half of our community being worried that bad changes would happen as they have in other policies. Let’s talk about it.

Yesterday evening, without warning, the Department changed their explanation of the longstanding passport policy on their website and added confusing and offensive language that showed a clear misunderstanding of the policy and of transgender people.

Earlier today, after pressure from NCTE and others, State Department officials apologized for these careless and thoughtless changes and reverted to most of the previous language. They claim that their actions were only meant to standardize language across websites.

To be clear: The State Department has confirmed to us that the same physician’s letter that has been accepted since 2010 to update a gender marker on a passport is what is still required today. Proof of surgery or other specific medical treatments is not required.

During a phone conversation with the Department this afternoon, NCTE made it clear that this incident has stoked confusion and fear among transgender people and their loved ones. We also sent a message to officials at the State Department that they must swiftly assure us all that the existing policy will remain in place, and no further language changes will be made that could further confuse and discourage applicants and providers. We are waiting for those assurances and will keep you up to date as we know more.

We remain vigilant and will continue to press the State Department to protect the rights of transgender people to obtain accurate identification, and we promise to update community members as this situation develops. NCTE has worked on this policy since at least 2008 and we know how important it is to our community. For now, it is still intact.

If you have additional questions about the passport policy, our staff will be available tomorrow via social media to answer your questions. We want to reiterate that you can — and should — exercise your right to obtain a passport that reflects your gender identity. For more information about updating your passport and the current policy, please visit our ID Documents Center.

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