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Surgery not required to change gender on passports

By Christine Simmons
Associated Press Writer / June 10, 2010

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WASHINGTON—Transgender travelers no longer will need surgery in order to change their stated genders on U.S. passports, the State Department said Wednesday.

Beginning Thursday, a transgender person applying for a U.S. passport will just need to show a physician's certification that the applicant has "undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition" to declare a new gender on a passport, the department said.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said appropriate treatment could mean surgery for some patients and non-surgical care for others.

The State Department said there are guidelines detailing what the certification must include, but no other medical records are required. The government also said it's possible to obtain a temporary passport if a physician's statement shows that an applicant is in the process of gender transition.

Under previous rules, the State Department would only change the sex on passports if travelers had completed sexual reassignment surgeries, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

But Keisling said that policy put some transgender people in jeopardy when they traveled through countries where changing genders is dangerous.

The State Department says the new policy is based on standards and recommendations from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.