Many transgender women are claiming that the State Department is retroactively revoking their passports.
Danni Askini is one such woman.
Askini began transitioning in 1998, at age 16. Since 1999, all of her official documents, including her passport, have listed ‘female’ as her sex.
However, when Askini went to renew her passport last month, her request was denied. The United States Passport office allegedly told her she had ‘failed to disclose’ her trans status. Even though she has had this passport for 20 years, she was told she needed to provide proof of her transition.
Today I was denied a renewal of my US Passport and told I would need to get a judge to unseal child welfare records from Foster care in order to “prove” my US Citizenship. Despite having had all “Female” ID since 1999, they are now demanding “Proof of Transition” for the 1st time
— Danni Askini (@danniaskini) June 29, 2018
‘Make no mistake, this was an intentional action by the State Department to withhold recognizing my gender,’ Askini told them.us.
Askini was ultimately granted a two-year temporary passport so she could travel from her home in Seattle to Sweden. Askini, who is a prominent activist, believes she was only granted this temporary passport after Seattle-based congresswoman Rep. Pramila Jayapal put pressure on the passport office.
Earlier this week, another trans woman experienced the same issue.
New York-based technology researcher Janus Rose has had a passport with the sex listed as ‘female’ since November. However, she recently finalized her legal name change and sent in her current passport and the appropriate paperwork in order to have it renewed with her new name.
Soon, she received a phone call from a passport processing center in South Carolina.
‘She basically told me that even though the government had changed my gender marker in the last year, that was a mistake,’ Rose told them.us.
The representative told Rose that the State Department should not have allowed her to change her gender, and that the documentation she provided was invalid.
‘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.’
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
Rose had no problem changing her gender marker last year with the letter signed by a nurse practitioner at her clinic.
‘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,’ Rose said.
The State Department
According to the State Department’s policy, someone who seeks to change their gender on their passport must provide photo identification 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.’
Them.us contacted the State Department to clarify their policy. They refused to comment on individual applications or the ‘revoking’ of one’s gender marker.
‘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,’ the State Department representative said.
‘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 Passport Problem
‘I spoke to someone the other day, a cis person, who had their legal name changed and it was fine,’ Rose recalls. ‘There was no asking for additional documentation or proof. She literally did the same thing just the other day. That’s what this is about. A cis person can go in and make this simple change, and a trans person cannot.’
Askini was disturbed that the State Department knew she was trans, despite there being no documentation disclosing that information. In her particular case, her legal gender transition was granted by a judge when she was a minor. Because of this, her identity is anonymous in those official documents and all of those child welfare records were sealed.
‘None of my documentation would disclose my trans status,’ says Askini. ‘No databases that are local, state, or federal should note my gender as anything other than female.’
‘I believe that the Trump Administration or someone in the Seattle Passport Office has targeted me politically and politicized the process for obtaining passports,’ Askini stated. ‘Their actions and statements are NOT consistent with the actual letter of the code related to trans people.’
‘It seems like they’re applying a different standard of enforcement to these cases now. I’ve never heard of a person having a problem changing their name on a passport until now,’ Rose said.
Since Trump took office, his administration has altered gender-inclusive nondiscrimination guidelines.
‘I think there’s an internal policy change to make it as difficult as possible for trans people,’ said Rose. ‘The goal is to create friction. They can’t change all these laws right away, but they can make it really hard.’