Overnight between Sept. 12 and 13, the State Department shifted its language surrounding gender transitioning on its website. This has prompted Kenyon’s Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) and Center for Global Engagement (CGE) to recommend that trans students consider applying for passports sooner rather than later.
On Sept. 14, the Office of Communications sent out an update informing students of the changes and reminding them that support funds exist for students in need of getting a passport.
The State Department’s website changed its wording from “genders” to “sex markers.” According to Timothy Bussey, assistant director of ODEI, people were initially worried that the website’s language change might indicate a change to the policy for transitioning individuals getting passports.
This has not yet happened. As of now, those who are transitioning from male to female or female to male can still qualify for a two-year provisional passport,and those who have completed their transition, as determined by a physician, can get a standard passport that is valid for 10 years for adults and five years for children under 16. The State Department still does not offer appropriate demarcation for those identifying as nonbinary.
“At this point, there has been no change to the policy,” Bussey said. “Trans people [identifying as male or female] are still able to provide certain documentation and get correctly gendered passports.”
The rapid response from ODEI and the CGE was due to Timothy Bussey’s new position in ODEI, which caters to the needs of LGBTQ+ students, according to Ausec.
“If it hadn’t been for Timothy, we would’ve found out about it at some point, but he was on the ball looking out for the needs of our students,” she said.
Bussey and Ausec suggest that, for both trans students who are interested in studying abroad and trans students who simply want a federally issued ID with the correct gender markers, now is the best time to act.
“So right now, we kind of know the lay of the land. Policy hasn’t changed,” Ausec said. “So if the policy hasn’t changed, the thought is that if you get your passport now, whatever you have put on there as your sex/gender marker will remain with you until your passport expires.”
Both Ausec and Bussey said that there are benefits to having a correctly-gendered passport beyond the ability to go abroad. Passports are useful for seeking employment, Bussey said. Moreover, having a correctly-gendered federal document can safeguard against trans-exclusive legislation a state government might pursue, according to Ausec.
Both administrators said that students should not hesitate to reach out to their offices with questions and concerns. Students in need of financial assistance to cover the cost of getting a passport can contact either Bussey or Meghan Mason, the assistant director of the CGE.