22 June 2010

New US Passport Policy

Per a policy change in the US Department of State, proof of genital surgery is no longer a prerequisite for changing the gender designation on a US passport. Although it is old news by now, it is very important for both the novel storyline and for myself, and must be noted.

US Department of State
National Center for Transgender Equality

The new guidelines only require a physician's note, on official letterhead of the physician, attesting to the completion of "clinical treatment" for gender transition. What constitutes appropriate clinical treatment is left up to the applicant and the physician, no specific requirements. There is no longer a need to submit detailed medical records so that a brain-dead bureaucrat can determine if the genital surgery is "complete" or not. It appears that changing the gender marker on the passport is now very similar to changing it on state identification cards (driver's license, etc.) in the more progressive states; the State of California uses a specific form for the purpose, and requires the physician to only attest to the appearance and demeanor of the applicant, without a need to state further medical information.

If the clinical treatment is ongoing, a temporary nonrenewable passport can be obtained, though it is valid for two years rather than one, as was the case for pre-op transpeople previously.

This brings the US policy on par with the policies of the UK and Spain, both of whom had done away with the surgery requirement years ago.

For me, this is a very important change, and in a good direction as well. For me, it's more important to live the life of a woman, and socialize the way a woman would, than to have a female anatomy; getting a gender-corrected passport was honestly the only major reason for me to opt for genital surgery, and that's a pretty lousy reason. With this change, I can now concentrate more on building a female life and identity, and work on better life quality, rather than worrying about surgery expenses - without the fear of losing my ability to travel.

I don't know how this will work for Sarah. I had seen her traveling with a passport with a male gender marker through 2008, though in late 2008, I expected her to get the one-year nonrenewable passport in anticipation of her mid-2009 surgery. While it is true that Sarah can stay non-op and benefit from this 2010 policy, I don't really see the storyline extending this long. Moreover, I had previously, repeatedly, noted Sarah's huge male anatomy, and surgery in the interest of improved self-image may be much more necessary in Sarah's case.

One possible idea may be to extend the storyline, to throw in another twist. Sarah would end up with the genital surgery in 2009, but due to her lack of labioplasty, her passport would continue to identify her as male, giving her severe headaches when traveling to some new, noted homophobic destinations of her airline. This new policy may be the saving grace of it all - a final affirmation of Sarah's female identity, as it finally allows Sarah to get a female passport.

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