The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

State Department: Transgender passports now available

The State Department announced today that from now on, if you bring a note from your doctor that you’ve undergone “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition,” you’ll be able to get a passport to match. If you’re still in the middle of the process of switching over, don’t worry, you can get a “limited-validity passport” ...

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The State Department announced today that from now on, if you bring a note from your doctor that you’ve undergone “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition,” you’ll be able to get a passport to match. If you’re still in the middle of the process of switching over, don’t worry, you can get a “limited-validity passport” until everything is settled.

And for those who don’t want to go through surgery? You’re clear to travel now, too. “Sexual reassignment surgery is no longer a prerequisite for passport issuance,” the State Department said.

The new policy is just one way the State Department is marking Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month, the second such commemoration since President Obama announced the first LGBT Pride Month last year. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement Monday saying, “Human rights are the inalienable right of every person, no matter who that person is or who that person loves.”

The State Department also has a webpage up giving short biographies of several LGBT employees, in honor of the month.

As for today’s announcement, LGBT rights advocates are hailing it as a small step in the progressive direction. But some of the State Department’s policies toward Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender employees haven’t always made activists happy.

Last week, President Obama extended benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees (though not the uniformed military), a move that rights groups also praised while calling for more action.

In a symbolic gesture, State Department Counselor Cheryl Mills this week met with former U.S. ambassador to Romania Michael Guest. Guest became a historic figure in 2001 when former Secretary of State Colin Powell appointed him as the first openly gay ambassador and publicly acknowledged his partner.

Six years later, however, Guest resigned in protest of State Department policies regarding homosexual spouses, saying, “I’ve felt compelled to choose between obligations to my partner, who is my family, and service to my country. That anyone should have to make that choice is a stain on the Secretary [Condoleezza Rice]’s leadership, and a shame for this institution and our country.”

“Gay partners are not entitled to State Department-provided security training, free medical care at overseas posts, guaranteed evacuation in case of a medical emergency, transportation to overseas posts, or special living allowances when Foreign Service officers are assigned to places like Iraq, where diplomatic families are not permitted,” the New York Times reported at the time.

The State Department announced today that from now on, if you bring a note from your doctor that you’ve undergone “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition,” you’ll be able to get a passport to match. If you’re still in the middle of the process of switching over, don’t worry, you can get a “limited-validity passport” until everything is settled.

And for those who don’t want to go through surgery? You’re clear to travel now, too. “Sexual reassignment surgery is no longer a prerequisite for passport issuance,” the State Department said.

The new policy is just one way the State Department is marking Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month, the second such commemoration since President Obama announced the first LGBT Pride Month last year. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement Monday saying, “Human rights are the inalienable right of every person, no matter who that person is or who that person loves.”

The State Department also has a webpage up giving short biographies of several LGBT employees, in honor of the month.

As for today’s announcement, LGBT rights advocates are hailing it as a small step in the progressive direction. But some of the State Department’s policies toward Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender employees haven’t always made activists happy.

Last week, President Obama extended benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees (though not the uniformed military), a move that rights groups also praised while calling for more action.

In a symbolic gesture, State Department Counselor Cheryl Mills this week met with former U.S. ambassador to Romania Michael Guest. Guest became a historic figure in 2001 when former Secretary of State Colin Powell appointed him as the first openly gay ambassador and publicly acknowledged his partner.

Six years later, however, Guest resigned in protest of State Department policies regarding homosexual spouses, saying, “I’ve felt compelled to choose between obligations to my partner, who is my family, and service to my country. That anyone should have to make that choice is a stain on the Secretary [Condoleezza Rice]’s leadership, and a shame for this institution and our country.”

“Gay partners are not entitled to State Department-provided security training, free medical care at overseas posts, guaranteed evacuation in case of a medical emergency, transportation to overseas posts, or special living allowances when Foreign Service officers are assigned to places like Iraq, where diplomatic families are not permitted,” the New York Times reported at the time.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin