Passports and Gender Markers: a Positive Change

Having your gender marker changed on government documents can be difficult depending on which state you live in.  In New Jersey, it is relatively easy: there is a form online to print and fill out with the Bureau of Vital Statistics to change your gender marker on your birth certificate.  To change your gender marker on your New Jersey Driver’s License, you can simply head on over to your local MVC location and fill out the appropriate forms there.   

While New Jersey appears to be making the process of changing one’s gender marker easier, other states are making it more difficult. Many states pile on additional requirements that are not only burdensome, but quite frankly, are outdated. In many states, if one wants to change their gender marker, some sort of medical certification from a healthcare provider must be submitted to show that they have been undergoing medical procedures to align their physical appearance (read: their body) with their gender identity.  This presents a myriad of problems.  First, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals do not have to transition to be valid members of their particular gender; transitioning may help trans and gender non-conforming individuals personally, but it is not a necessity.  Furthermore, transitioning can take place with merely a name change, different pronoun use, or changes in appearance not as a result of medical intervention (i.e. make-up and clothes).  In fact, there are many, many ways a person may transition, and transition through medical means is not a given.  Likewise, there are many, many ways a person may exist as trans or gender non-conforming; just as transitioning through medical means isn’t a given, transitioning itself isn’t a given either. 

While it matters where someone lives when changing state documents, Federal documents are a different story.  Up until last week, the United States Passport Office required a physician’s letter or other medical certification in order to change one’s gender marker on their passport.  As you can imagine, issues arose before where an individual may have changed their gender marker on their state license, but having not undergone any form of medical care for their transition, they still had a passport that listed the incorrect gender.  Thus, their passport did not match their Driver’s License.  Now, that has all changed.  The requirement by the US Passport Office for medical documentation is gone, and individuals can now change the gender marker on their passports with merely an application.   

The fight is not over though.  There is yet to be an ‘X’ gender marker allowed on passports for non-binary and other gender non-conforming people.  And for many other government entities, (the Social Security Administration for instance), a medical certification is still needed to change one’s gender marker.  Hopefully, these other systemic failures will be fixed as well, and the rights of the transgender and gender non-conforming communities will continue to progress. 

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