September 27, 2022

Schiff, Jayapal, Pressley Urge Biden Administration to Expand Access to Gender-Affirming Travel Documents and Services for LGBTQI+ Individuals

Today, Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and 16 Members of Congress sent a letter to the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security, encouraging them to make the “X” gender marker available for all U.S. passport applications and Trusted Travelers programs – affirming the right of all Americans, regardless of gender identity, to work, study, and travel abroad with full dignity and respect.

In March 2022, the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security made history by expanding the gender marker options available for U.S. passports and TSA PreCheck applications, creating a new “X” marker for individuals who identify as unspecified or another gender identity. However, the departments have yet to implement the “X” gender marker for their wide range of passport services and application forms, including the rush, non-routine, and Trusted Traveler programs such as Global Entry that are currently accessible to other travelers.

“As the nation’s economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Department’s lack of inclusive gender markers for those in need of immediate passport assistance denies transgender, intersex, and non-binary Americans’ rights to reunite with their families, study abroad, and perform overseas business operations with full dignity and respect,” the members wrote in the letter.

The members’ efforts were inspired when one of Schiff’s constituents contacted his office seeking an emergency passport appointment. While the Los Angeles-based constituent had applied for the “X” gender marker on their U.S. passport, the only passport agency that processes rush applications is in Washington, DC, meaning they would only have been able to obtain a passport with a male or female gender marker at the local Passport Agency. Schiff’s office was able to help the constituent obtain the right passport in time, and immediately began researching legislative solutions to help LGBTQI+ constituents access all travel services and documents while affirming their true identity.

“As long as the Department of State fails to provide non-routine services to individuals seeking an X as their gender marker, non-binary applicants will continue to face an undue and unjust burden when pursuing international travel. The State Department’s current timeline to provide these services by late 2023, with no clear date released to the public, would deny these travelers equal access for far too long. Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security’s current policy limitations simply force non-binary travelers to choose a gender that does not reflect their gender identity,” the members continued.

Specifically, the members are calling for:

  • Solidified and accelerated implementation of the “X” gender marker option for passport cards, emergency passports printed at embassies and consulates, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBAs), and on Trusted Traveler Programs forms
  • A public date by which the “X” gender marker will be available for applicants for all passport services and application forms

The letter is cosigned by Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and is endorsed by COLAGE, Equality California, Equality Federation, Family Equality, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Human Rights Campaign, Los Angeles LGBTQ Center, National Center for Transgender Equality, and the Trevor Project.

Click here to read the letter or read the full text below:

Dear Secretary Blinken and Secretary Mayorkas,

We write today to urge the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security to take swift action to affirm and protect the rights of transgender, intersex, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming passport applicants and international travelers.

We appreciate the historic progress your departments have made thus far in implementing measures to respect and better serve all Americans, regardless of their gender identity. However, while U.S. citizens are currently able to select “unspecified or another gender identity” (X) as their gender marker during routine applications for U.S. passports and on applications for the TSA PreCheck program, we encourage the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to solidify and accelerate the implementation of the “X” gender marker option for passport cards, emergency passports printed at embassies and consulates, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBAs), and on Trusted Traveler Programs forms.

Additionally, as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Department of Homeland Security consider updating the Trusted Travel Programs to add the “X” gender marker for applicants, we strongly urge your department to fully implement updating the Trusted Travel Programs to align with the U.S. Department of State’s Passport Options by adding a third gender marker, ‘‘X’’, for applicants. And as the Department of State prepares to make the “X” gender marker option available in late 2023, we respectfully request that your department swiftly make publicly available the date in which the “X” gender marker will be available for applicants for all passport services and application forms.

According to TripIt from Concur, about 13 percent of the adult U.S. population traveled internationally this summer, while the U.S. Travel Association forecasts that spending on international travel in 2022 will more than triple its total from 2021. As the nation’s economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Department’s lack of inclusive gender markers for those in need of immediate passport assistance denies transgender, intersex, and non-binary Americans’ rights to reunite with their families, study abroad, and perform overseas business operations with full dignity and respect.

According to research from the Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law, an estimated 1.2 million American adults identify as non-binary. As long as the Department of State fails to provide non-routine services to individuals seeking an X as their gender marker, non-binary applicants will continue to face an undue and unjust burden when pursuing international travel. The State Department’s current timeline to provide these services by late 2023, with no clear date released to the public, would deny these travelers equal access for far too long. Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security’s current policy limitations simply force non-binary travelers to choose a gender that does not reflect their gender identity.

We urge you to pursue all available means to provide all Americans with equal access to inclusive and accurate gender markers as soon as possible. Should you require any additional authority from Congress to address these concerns, we urge you to notify us as soon as possible. We thank you for your consideration and look forward to working with you to address this important issue to affirm and respect members of the LGBTQI+ community.

Sincerely,

Members of Congress

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