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The Prep Work I'm Doing To Get A Passport Under New State Department Rules

Last June, the Obama Administration made changes to the rules for obtaining passports. These rules were made to change procedures for transgender people so that we trans folk could obtain two-year passports without genital reconstruction surgery.

Thumbnail link: U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual - Volume 7 Consular Affairs, 7 FAM 1300 APPENDIX M GENDER CHANGEThe new rules are found in the State Department’s document 7 FAM 1300 APPENDIX M GENDER CHANGE. It spells out a lot of hoops trans people have to jump through to get that two-year passport.

The first, and most difficult part, has been getting a letter I needed form one of the five types of physicians (psychiatrists, internists, endocrinologists, gynecologists, and urologists) written in a format the State Department accepts, spelling out my gender is female. Heck, the State Department has lots of requirements for this letter — It must be a signed original statement, on office letterhead, from a patient’s attending medical physician, that must include the following:

• Physician’s full name

• Medical license or certificate number

• Issuing state or other jurisdiction of medical license/certificate

• Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration number assigned to the physician

• Address and telephone number of the physician

• Language stating that he/she is the attending physician for the applicant and that he/she has a doctor/patient relationship with the applicant

• Language stating the applicant has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition to the new gender (male or female)

• Language stating “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the forgoing is true and correct”

• Annotate the application “gender transition” to record the reason for issuing the full validity passport in the new gender.

Late last July, I asked my psychiatrist for a letter that conformed with the State Department requirements. (I see about psychiatrist about every month-and-a-half for my bipolar condition, so I was asking for this letter from a doctor who has an ongoing doctor-patient relationship with.) It took until just last week to actually obtain a letter from her that completely conformed with the State Department requirements because, as I expected, the letter she wrote for me was the first one of these kinds of transgender-pasport letters she’d ever written.

As a next step, I then went to assemble the rest of my documentation to take to the Post Office for that two-year passport. However, when I went to pull out my birth certificate from my files, I found out my copy didn’t conform to the State Department requirements. I only have a Xerox copy of an official copy of my birth certificate in my files, but I need an actual official copy of my birth certificate to take to the Post Office for that passport I want.

So, I need a new official copy of my birth certificate if I want that passport. To make a long story short, to get that new official birth ceritificate copy, I needed a notarized, filled-in form to send to the Los Angeles County Register-Recorder that confirmed my identity — My identity needed to be verified to confirm I’m the actual registrant asking for a copy of my own birth certificate. Since I’ve changed my name as part of my transition, I had to bring a notary my driver’s license, and a copy of my change of name document back from when I changed my name to Autumn in 2004 so he could confirm — in writing with a notary seal — that I am the registrant. You know, because my name doesn’t now match the one that’s on my birth certificate.

I got that done yesterday (Saturday, December 5, 2010). I mailed off the notarized copy of my form confirming I am a registrant asking for a copy of my own birth certificate off to the Los Angeles County Register-Recorder yesterday  afternoon.

Image: Autumn Sandeen's Passport Photographs (Photos taken December 3, 2010)As you can see, I’ve taken my passport photo taken — I look jaundiced in the photo, don’t I? Oh well, it’s not like the photos on photo identification cards ever look great, y’know?

As soon as my official copy of my birth certificate shows up in the mail, I’m off to the Post Office with my folder of documents to apply for my passport in my current name and gender identity. Before that passport expires, I hope to have my birth certificate changed to reflect my gender, and then I’ll have to update my passport to reflect what my updated birth certificate will say.

This is a lot of work, but I want to feel free to travel again. Having a passport that had a gender marker that didn’t reflect my gender identity would take away from feeling like I could travel internationally — I don’t want to carry an identity document at any time that has a male gender identifier on it.



* BREAKING Blend exclusive: State Department issues gender change policy for passport applications

* Foreign Affairs Manual Requirements For Passport Change Of Gender

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Autumn Sandeen

Autumn Sandeen