In a Twitter thread posted last week, Janus Rose, a tech researcher based in New York, reported that the State Department “retroactively invalidated” the change of gender marker on her passport from the previous year, refusing to renew her passport – the second reported trans person who has been denied a passport this year.
Wow. The U.S. passport office just called and told me that due to an “error,” the government has *retroactively invalidated* the change of gender marker it authorized on my passport last year. They won’t renew my passport w/ correct name & gender until i submit a new doctors note
— ✨ Janus Rose ✨ (@zenalbatross) July 25, 2018
In addition to Rose, Danni Askini, whose legal name change was finalized 20 years ago, was told this year that she would need to provide “proof of transition” in order to renew her passport.
It is easy to see this new State Department policy as just the latest chapter in the Trump administration’s attempt to exclude transgender people from basic legal protections in schools, doctor’s offices, prisons and detention centers. But as Rose points out, this goes beyond a single presidential administration or government policy:
We have this belief that we live in a nation of laws, that there are laws protecting us. But in practice, these protections are entirely notional for marginalized people, and they always have been.
Why should trans people’s ability to travel, work, and avoid being brutalized by police or thrown in prison be dependent on the whims of a government that has proven time and time again to be hostile to us? Why should the Department of Justice determine the validity of our genders? Why should gender be on a passport at all? When we appeal to the state to determine our identities and recognize our humanity through legal documents, that humanity can be easily taken away – and it has always been denied to the most vulnerable members of the trans community.
The same government that demands trans people jump through bureaucratic hoops to be seen as legitimate is also the greatest source of transphobic violence, particularly for trans women of color, and disabled and immigrant trans people. And while legal documents are necessary for mobility and safety, they provide no protection from other forms of violent discrimination trans people face every day, from being denied employment, benefits, or housing, sexually assaulted by TSA, or profiled by police.
To address transphobia on an systemic and interpersonal level, Rose argues, we need to look beyond the government: “We need to stop looking to the state as a means to grant us our rights and realize that we already have rights and should assert them, by any means necessary.”
There are myriad ways we can affirm and protect trans people’s humanity, and Rose suggests some great places to start. You can give your money to trans folks to fund lifesaving healthcare and legal fees. You can address transphobia in your own community and form friendships to support incarcerated trans people.
We can protect and care for each other. And no policy can stop us.