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Defining criteria for gender markers on federal identity documents

Commentary: Trans Progressive

If you live in the U.S. and you’re not of trans history, chances are extremely high that the federal government considers you either male or female. By that I mean that every federal agency – every executive branch department – you have dealings with will gender you as male or female, and that gender identification will be consistent throughout each agency.

That’s not necessarily true for people of trans history, or people who are intersex.

In submitting paperwork to change my gender marker – to change my recognized sex – at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) March 5, it reminded me that the federal government doesn’t have a government-wide standard for determining the gender marker for transitioning and transitioned trans people. So agencies in the federal government’s executive branch do (or will) consider me female; some consider me male.

Take the three federal agencies that have provided photo identification cards to me – the VA, the State Department and the Department of Defense (DOD).

The State Department is the federal agency that issues passports. Until 2010, the State Department required a surgery letter to change the gender marker from the one on one’s birth certificate from male to female, or vice versa. If a citizen previously had a passport with one gender marker, and that citizen provided a new birth certificate indicating the marker had been changed from male to female or vice versa, without a surgery letter, that was considered insufficient evidence to change one’s gender marker.

But in 2010, the State Department changed the rules. Now the policy on gender marker change, according to Appendix M (entitled Gender Change) of the State Department’s governing document 7 FAMS 1300, is defined as follows:

“This policy explains the need for who has treated the applicant or reviewed and evaluated the medical history of the applicant regarding the change in gender, as well as the need for accurate identification and a photograph reflecting the applicant’s current appearance. It is based on standards and recommendations of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), recognized as the authority in this field by the American Medical Association.”

The VA’s policy on gender marker change was the same as the State Department’s policy pre-2010, but March 2 of this year changed their policy to match the current State Department policy. So even though the VA doesn’t put a gender marker on their ID cards, they do have a gender marker attached to the records of those who use their services – including medical records.

This is in stark contrast to the DOD. There are three separate policies for the four military services that fall under the DOD. {The Marines fall under the Department of the Navy (DON), so that organization has the same gender documentation policies as the Navy.) Since I’m a Navy retiree who has a retired DOD ID card, I recently inquired about changing my gender marker within my DOD records.

Depending on which agency was asked whether I was male or female, one could receive either answer – and that’s just loony. For me, I just wish the entire federal government accepted the progressive State Department standard for determining sex – for determining what sex/what the gender marker is for each trans and intersex United States citizen and resident.



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Posted by LGBT Weekly on Mar 29, 2012. Filed under Trans Progressive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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