110 is the magic number. With $110, the cost of a United States passport, the world opens up. And with every $110 we raise, the world opens up a little more.
The Transgender Passport Fund is raising money and providing guidance to help low income trans, genderqueer, and gender nonconforming people obtain United States passports, with a special focus on trans women of color. As we embark on uncertain times for marginalized groups, many people are fearing for their futures and safety. The Fund is a humble effort to take direct action and help people out in a concrete way: a passport offers a means of escape, giving a vulnerable group something material and some peace of mind.
Why passports? A United States passport is an incredible thing: though it doesn't give one the right to settle in a place, it does give one mobility: the ability to enter some 174 countries around the world. The Fund was inspired by history: in the turbulent years between 1933 and 1939, having your papers in order could be a lifesaver for Jewish people trying to escape before the Holocaust. We can expect that the wait time for passports (currently over a month) may grow even longer, so the time to act is now. And this is preparation for the worst. If the passport is never needed for an emergency, it still provides trans people with something powerful: the opportunity to travel, to see the world, to seek medical treatment abroad, and to pursue new work in other countries. A passport is valid for 10 years, making it a durable investment.
Why trans people? Trans people, especially trans women of color, are far more likely to experience both poverty and violence. The economic burdens and employment discrimination that trans people face can make the $110 fee of a passport a hardship. And the increased violence that trans people may face under the upcoming administration means this document could become a necessity.
What obstacles do trans people face in obtaining passports? To ensure that name and gender identifiers are correct, trans people must put in additional legwork before applying. The associated costs of this and of the passport itself can put it out of reach for a person with a low income.
What about immigrant, undocumented, and non-citizen trans people? These groups face vastly different circumstances and requirements, since a passport hinges on citizenship. Their immediate needs are better met by lawyers and immigration officials, as numerous steps must be taken before a United States passport is a possibility.
What sort of work is the Fund performing? Identifying people to help (with support from community leaders and organizations), assisting with forms and applications, and connecting people with affirming doctors and lawyers for medical and name change forms.
How will my donation be used? Aside from the small percentage taken by GoFundMe, the plan is for 100% of the donations to go to the $110 cost of passports. There are a few kinds of passports available, but we will be working to guide people in obtaining the most useful one: a 10 year passport book. If necessary, some will be used for medical and legal costs to ensure the correct gender/name identifiers, but the Fund plans to identify low cost or free resources, so as to be efficient as possible.
How do you locate candidates for passports? We're reaching out in a number of ways right now! Personal social networks, LGBTQ-focused social workers, other passport funds, and established LGBTQ legal organizations are all part of the outreach.