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Gillian Branstetter, Media Relations Manager
September 12, 2018

State Department Alters Passport Gender Marker Website

The procedure for changing gender markers on U.S. passports has not changed.

UPDATE 09/13/2018: A State Department official issued the following response to our release:

"We want to state unequivocally that there has been no change in policy or in the way we adjudicate passports for transgender applicants.  The Department of State is committed to treating all passport applicants with dignity and respect.  With regard to the web update, we added language to make our use of terms consistent and accurate and to eliminate any confusion customers may have related to the passport application process.  We apologize for inadvertently including some language which may be considered offensive and are updating the website to remove it."

Though the current passport gender marker policy remains unchanged, language concerning the process for changing gender markers on U.S. passports was altered or removed from the State Department’s website earlier this week.

The longstanding page regarding “Gender Designation” policies—in place since 2010—has been removed, and a new but similar page concerning what they now call “Sex Designation” has been put in its place with significant changes. However, the underlying policy remains unchanged.

These changes to the website are likely to cause confusion about the actual policy for changing gender markers. That policy can still be found in the Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual here.

An archived version of the page from Sept. 10 may be viewed here, while the revised page may be viewed here. Notable changes to the website include:

  • Links to resources from the American Medical Association and the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) have been removed.

  • A new paragraph highlights burdensome provisions of the 2010 policy, specifically for two-year provisional passports for people who submit letters stating they are “in the process” of transition.

  • A needless paragraph has been added to the website stating, "A U.S. passport does not list the bearer's gender identity. The sex marker on your U.S. passport is based on your evidence of U.S. citizenship and identity, including a medical certification of sex change. The sex marker may not match the gender in which you identify." Though this language is undesirable and uninformed, it does not change the requirements of the policy.

  • Most mentions of the word “gender” have been replaced with the word “sex.”

These changes mirror similar alterations by the Trump administration hiding LGBTQ resources on the websites of the Department of Health & Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Small Business Administration.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, condemned the changes by the State Department:

“While ultimately pointless, this move seems designed to frighten, confuse, and keep transgender people from exercising their full rights under the current policy—the same policy we fought for and won in 2010. Transgender people can and absolutely should continue to update and renew their passports. That is our right and that should always be our right.”


To learn more about the requirements for updating the gender marker on a U.S. passport, please visit NCTE’s ID Documents Center. Anyone who has trouble updating the gender marker on their passport under the existing policy should contact Arli Christian at achristian@transequality.org.

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