The new passport policy announced by the State Department in June will make a difference in the lives of many transgender people around the country. The new policy should allow many transgender people who previously were unable to do so to obtain identification that accurately reflects who they are, and makes it less likely that they will encounter discrimination, harassment or other difficulties when traveling or conducting other business. Over the summer, we have received a large number of messages from people who are relieved that at long last they can obtain a US passport and will not be afraid to travel abroad. NCTE will be monitoring the implementation of this policy and working with State Department and our partners in the Council for Global Equality to ensure it is working effectively for everyone.
This step forward builds on tremendous progress at the state level in recent years. To pick just two examples, in recent months Ohio and Nevada have taken important steps to improve and simplify their policies for changing gender on driver’s licenses. This month, New Mexico and Pennsylvania did the same. Half of all states now have driver’s license rules at least as strong as the new passport policy. This progress happened because of the efforts of state and local advocates, along with medical experts, to educate state officials and develop workable policies. The new passport policy should go a long way in demonstrating to other state and federal agencies the practicality and advisability of providing identification documents that reflect the reality of transgender people’s lives.
But while we have just seen a major breakthrough, it will not cure transgender people’s documentation problems overnight. There are still many federal and state policies – most of which were written many years ago without the benefit of any knowledge about transgender people – that create serious difficulties for our community, and which we will have to continue working to correct. At the federal level, our goals will include, over the course of 2010-2011:
- Monitoring the implementation of the State Department’s new policy and seeking improvements if needed
- Working with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Agencies to develop a model driver’s license gender change policy
- Working with the Social Security Administration to develop appropriate policies regarding gender data in SSA account records
- Working with US Citizenship and Immigration Services to ensure that immigration documents appropriately reflect and individual’s gender
- Working with the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration to address several issues related to veterans’ records
- Continuing to monitor the implementation of the REAL ID Act (which, fortunately, is currently stalled) and any proposed legislation to amend or repeal REAL ID
- Working with the National Center for Health Statistics to improve the Model Vital Statistics Act
NCTE will also continue to support and assist the diligent work of state and local advocates on state ID policies.