For Trans People, Legal Recognition is Important. Here’s Why

Featured image description: A variety of colourful passports for many different countries including the UK, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Denmark.

CN in blog post for misgendering, transphobia discussion

Hi all,

Today is gonna be a fairly short post compared to normal a few reasons – one of which is my personal situation, but also because…

…I am finally legally female on my passport.

This is a really big deal for me for a few reasons as now the gender marker on it matches how I present. But to help others understand the importance of this I’m gonna explain a bit more on a general level in today’s post before I go and celebrate.

So why are legally correct documents like passports a big deal for a trans person?


This is the obvious one. Somebody who has to supply ID for anything can now show a document without the worry of being outed. It’s a form of protection as many cis people place great importance on what documents say. It is part of the quick judgements that people make when they serve people in a shop – such as when checking ID to buy age-restricted products.

Other people use it as an argument to invalidate people’s gender identities and by being able to change it makes their argument completely null. This is because many cis people would otherwise agree as they place great importance on cis people recognising somebody being trans (which isn’t ok but is a whole other thing).

Ability to travel more easily

Another reason is being able to travel abroad and emigrate more easily as a correctly gendered passport is less likely to cause issues when trying to get through customs control. This means travelling becomes a lot more viable for trans people again as before the options were limited to domestic travel as well as certain other legal arrangements where border checks are reduced (ie. Within the EU).

If the gender marker matches how somebody presents, customs officers are much more likely to let people through without any issues. Whereas if somebody presents a passport with a marker that doesn’t match how they present (ie. A trans woman with a passport that says M under sex/gender), they will likely run into issues including having to out themselves to strangers.

Of course, this issue does not apply where transphobia is widespread and/or has been illegalised in law even for those that have fully transitioned – however, most trans people wouldn’t risk going to many of these places (ie. The Middle East) anyway.

That said, the exception of this relates to for the nonbinary X gender marker in countries that aren’t super LGBTQ+ friendly and gender diversity is embraced. For this reason, I personally wouldn’t get one despite identifying as non-binary. However, the option should be made available because for some this is not something they can overlook.

To overcome systematic barriers

Additionally, and most importantly, a correctly gendered passport can allow for some of the barriers trans people face being systematically overcome. For me, I am now finally able to move forward with my homelessness situation as my misgendered passport was only one of many systematic barriers I was facing. The anxiety it caused stopped me from getting anywhere with housing.

It also depends on the laws of individual countries. In the UK, the path to getting a passport’s gender marker legally changed is much easier than getting a Gender Recognition Certificate. For the former, you only need a specifically worded doctor’s letter as evidence, whereas the latter needs considerably more documents. It was why there were previous plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act.

As I write this, the GRA reforms in the UK have been stalled outside of Scotland so it is unlikely the process for getting a GRC will be made any easier. However, in practice, few situations will ever require somebody to show their birth certificate when an updated passport or driving license will be sufficient instead. So as long as trans people in the UK can find a doctor willing to write them this letter, they have a way to go around most of the barriers an incorrect birth certificate will cause. This is in the UK, I can’t speak for other countries where the processes are different.

Hence, in conclusion

Being able to change gender markers on legal documents is life-saving. This means that the processes in each country must be made more accommodating for others, including trans youth as well as for non-binary identities. And by extension for foreigners too including those seeking naturalisation or even just to visit as tourists.

For me personally, my legal transition is effectively complete aside from the GRC which I may return to in the future if I do need to get it but in day to day life I’m covered at this point. The right for somebody to have documents that match the life they live is everyone’s right.

That’s all for today,

Milla xx (now legally female as of 07/02/2020)

Featured image source: In the image on top right corner naming Shuttlestock account CNN Money