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Transgender Americans Are Frantically Updating Their Passports — Here’s Why

Facing an uncertain future, transgender Americans rush to update passports

There has been a recent sense of urgency among transgender people to change the gender on their legal IDs. Of course, it’s important to recognize that having legal identification that matches one’s gender identity allows a transgender person to lead a life without uncomfortable explanations, unwarranted suspicions and unjust harassment. While this type of documentation has a unique and deeply personal meaning to each transgender individual, the IDs themselves ensure a livelihood that everyone should be entitled to.

But why are they doing this now? This answer is simple: Transgender individuals in America don’t know what the future of the country holds, and they’re proactively getting their gender-affirming legal identification while they still can.

More: Girl Scouts Allows Transgender Girls, Doesn’t Care If You’re Mad

How difficult is this process? It depends. Based on of a state's legislation, some forms of federal ID such as social security cards, birth certificates and driver's licenses may only be updated following gender-affirming surgery along with a court order.

But not everyone who identifies as transgender gets the surgery or even wants to in the first place. For those who consider it, the cost of gender-affirming surgery can be overwhelming. Oftentimes, one’s insurance won’t cover the bill in its entirety, forcing the transgender individual to pay out of pocket for the procedure or inevitably forgo it.

However, this differs when it comes to passports. The current standards put in place by the Obama Administration allow transgender or gender nonconforming individuals to update the gender indication on their passport with nothing more than a certification letter from a physician.

More: 24 Best States to Live In If You’re LGBT

So far, no executive or legislative moves have been made against the LGBTQ community. In fact, Trump vowed to keep Obama’s LGBTQ workplace protections in place, a first from a Republican president. While this is a (sort of) relieving stance, it must be noted that President Trump could easily eliminate the passport rule without any sort of vote, making the process of obtaining gender-affirming identification next to impossible for many individuals.

And so for many transgender advocacy groups, the only time to act is now. Organizations such as the Trans Relief Project are offering free administrative and even financial resources to aid anyone going through a number of processes to obtain corrected passports and other ID documents. They make it pretty clear why transgender people need passports:

Getting gender-affirming identification is an incredible personal and professional milestone in a transgender person’s life and should not be overlooked. But even if every transgender person is able to get legal identification, the coming months are sure to bring them a few more reasons to be concerned:

  1. The 2016 bathroom laws, which were put in place to allow transgender individuals to choose the correctly gendered bathroom, are already being pre-filed against by 11 states who are seeking to pass legislation that would restrict the use of bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities for only those who have a matching “biological birth," aka, they want to completely remove equal access to bathroom use.
  2. President Trump’s new Supreme Court Justice pick could reopen the debate and possible reversal of critical decisions that involve same-sex marriage and an array of transgender rights.
  3. And lest we forget the current “Muslim-ban,” which tells us that the Trump administration is not afraid of — and may even be quite inclined toward — making sweeping decisions based on factors such as nationality, religion and stereotypical beliefs. Sexual orientation could very well come under this scope.

More: How Celebs Are Taking Action After President Trump’s Muslim Ban

These ideas, while worst-case scenario, have the potential to strip the liberties of about 1.4 million transgender Americans. Maybe it won’t affect you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care. Think about the way you mindlessly complain about the lines for the ladies’ room or the inefficient DMV. Think about your vacation plans, how you can book flights and destinations in advance. Think about the stereotypes you may hold, including those you speak out loud and those you keep to yourself. Recognize the privileges you have — big or small — and decide how you are going to ensure them for everyone in your community.

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