On This Day — State Department Changes Passport Policy

After years of advocacy from NCTE, the State Department modernized its gender change policies in 2010.

This piece has been modified from one originally published eight years ago today.

Last night the U.S. Department of State announced new guidelines for issuing passports to transgender people. Beginning today, applicants for a gender marker change on their passports will need to submit certification from a physician that they have received “appropriate clinical treatment” for gender transition. Most importantly, gender reassignment surgery is not required under the new policy.

The new rules will also apply to changing a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) for US citizens who were born outside of the United States. CRBAs are the equivalent of a birth certificate.

For years, NCTE has been advocating with the State Department to change their rules about gender markers on passports and CRBAs. Previously they had required proof of irreversible sex reassignment surgery before the gender marker could be changed, although there were exceptions for temporary, provisional passports to allow someone to travel for surgery.

NCTE and other advocates have stressed with the State Department that this policy unnecessarily called attention to transgender travelers whose appearance and gender marker were at odds. In some destinations, this had the potential to create an extremely dangerous situation when a traveler is outed as transgender in an unwelcoming environment or in the presence of prejudiced security personnel.

Fortunately, the new rules represent a significant advance in providing safe, humane and dignified treatment of transgender people.

Mara Keisling, Executive Director of NCTE, commented:

We want to extend our thanks to the Obama Administration, and particularly to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for understanding the need for this change and then responding to make travel safer for transgender people. This shows how changes in government policy directly impact people’s lives, in this case, for the better.


Visit NCTE’s Know Your Rights resources for information on how to change the name and gender on your passport or Consular Report of Birth Abroad.

Trans Equality Now!

A joint project of the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund and the National Center for Transgender Equality. Also at ncteactionfund.org and transequality.org.

National Center for Transgender Equality

Written by

We’re the nation’s leading social justice advocacy organization winning life-saving change for transgender people. Also at https://transequality.org.

Trans Equality Now!

A joint project of the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund and the National Center for Transgender Equality. Also at ncteactionfund.org and transequality.org.

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