Well Done, Passport Office

I have to go to Canada in March for a conference and to visit some clients. As my passport will have less than 6 months validity left I need to renew it. Any interaction with officialdom is a scary thing for trans people. Last time I needed a new passport I went in person to a passport office with a ton of documentation, just in case. Everything went smoothly. This time I was pleased to discover that the Passport Office actually has a special leaflet explaining the situation for trans people.

Some of the language is a little clunky — I can see the more shouty trans activists getting upset by the term “acquired gender”. However, the process itself seems straight forward. For people applying for their first passport, the leaflet makes it clear than you can get one in your correct name and gender, even if you don’t have a Gender Recognition Certificate (though you will need a letter from a doctor in that case). As for people like me, the leaflet says:

You should fill in the application form using details relating to your acquired gender and reflect both your current name and any other previous names you have used in your acquired gender in section 2. You do not need to include any previous names in your birth gender.

This is good, because the question on the form about previous names is very scary. That comment makes it clear that the deadname is not required.

The leaflet reassuringly makes clear that even if you did have to include evidence of a change of name and gender, this will not appear on your documents. In the FAQs at the end it states:

All records held by Her Majesty’s Passport Office are protected in line with the Data Protection Act. We have protections in place in our policy, systems and procedures to ensure any record relating to a previous gender is only made where absolutely necessary and such records are protected from inappropriate access or disclosure. This applies regardless of whether you have obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate or not.

Obviously there are still issues here. The leaflet is written within the current framework of the Gender Recognition Act. Hence the need for medical evidence of a permanent gender change, and the lack of non-binary options. But given those restrictions it does very well. Which just goes to show what can be achieved if only people care enough to try.

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