In recent months, at least two transgender women have reported having their passports revoked by the U.S. State Department, according to a new report from Them. Both women said they were denied new passports when attempting to renew and asked to provide proof of transition despite having previously changed the gender marker on their passport.
After holding a passport that identified her as female for nearly 20 years, Danni Askini told Them that her passport renewal request was denied by the U.S. Passport Office in June for having "failed to disclose" being transgender. "Despite having had all 'Female' ID since 1999, they are now demanding 'Proof of Transition' for the 1st time," Askini tweeted June 30.
In comments to Them, Askini accused the State Department, which oversees the U.S. Passport Office, of taking "intentional action... to withhold recognizing [her] gender."
Although Askini was eventually granted a temporary two-year passport after involving her congressional representative, she said passport officials had refused to accept her amended birth certificate, which reportedly shows both her current legal name and gender. "They claim this is not the 'original' because I had previous names," she tweeted. "The 'original' documents no longer exist."
More recently, Janus Rose reported having her passport revoked after submitting papers to renew the identification document following a legal name change. Rose told Them that the U.S. Passport Office said her passport, which she'd had changed to female in November, had been "retroactively invalidated" because the State Department's gender marker change had been "a mistake." According to Rose, the Passport Office said they would not accept the clinic letter that she had submitted as proof of her transition and asked for new documentation.
"Spoke to staff at my clinic," Rose tweeted Thursday in an update on her situation. "It is pretty clear to us that the government is now rejecting boilerplate language that has been used successfully for years." According to Rose, the State Department now required that the doctor signing the letter explicitly state they have a doctor-patient relationship with the individual in question.
A State Department official tells Bustle the agency does not comment on individual passport applications but noted that every applicant undergoes extensive vetting. "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," the official tells Bustle. "Sexual reassignment surgery is not a prerequisite for updating the gender marker in a passport and documents proving sexual reassignment surgery are not required."
On their website, the State Department notes that it is up to the applicant's physician to determine what "appropriate clinical treatment" is. The State Department also notes that the physician's letter must include the following statement: I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the forgoing is true and correct. A sample medical certification is available on their website for clinics, doctors, or applicants who may need it.
Applicants for a gender designation change are also required to submit an ID that resembles their current physical appearance, a current passport photo, and proof of legal name change if applicable.
But what happened to Askini and Rose may not be the start of a new policy trend, according to the National Center For Transgender Equality. The group announced Saturday that it had investigated recent concerns pertaining to passport processing for transgender people. "All of the incidents we have seen involved unusual circumstances and bureaucratic mistakes by the passport agency and have caused unfortunate hardship and anxiety for our community," NCTE said in a statement. "Please note, the longstanding passport gender marker policy has not changed."