The Social Security Administration announced on Friday that all that is now required to change the gender identity on their Social Security records is for individuals to submit government-issued documentation reflecting a gender change or certification from a physician confirming that they have undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.
Previously complete sex reassignment surgery had to be documented in order for the SSA to change the records.
Many trans people never undergo such procedures, either because they are too expensive, because they do not want to lose their procreative ability, or because it simply isn’t an important change for them to make to find authenticity in their identities. The SSA change eliminates this high standard for trans people to obtain the appropriate documentation for the gender that reflects how they live their daily lives.
Social Security cards do not display gender, but the SSA does maintain the information, and the data can and does affect coverage under Medicaid, Medicare, Supplementary Security Income and other public benefits. If gender markers fail to be in sync between the SSA's data and a person's identification, complications can result in delay or denial of benefits.
This is a tremendous victory for our community. The Social Security Administration was one of the last agencies to hold onto an outdated, one-size-fits-all standard for gender change. Transgender people will now be able to change all their federal documents with a simple letter from their doctor recognizing that they have undergone the appropriate treatment for them.
--Ilona Turner. Transgender Law Center legal director
Most people may not see this as a big deal, but transgender people know that this seemingly small technical change will protect their privacy and give them more control over their own lives.
All information for Medicare comes from Social Security, including the gender marker on the Medicare card. If you are not able to change your gender marker on your Social Security account, your gender marker is going to be messed up in other places. Until today, we’ve had to fix each program one at a time.
--Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality
This crucial policy change by the Social Security Administration brings SSA procedures into alignment with other federal agencies that have made progress on equality for transgender people. This new policy is in line with how transgender people live their lives and is in line with the medical community’s consensus on when a person’s gender should be recognized. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force thanks the Social Security Administration for heeding the repeated calls from transgender and LGBT advocates to take notice that the policy was out of step with current medical consensus.The SSA has also issued guidelines for interviewing transgender people. Those guidelines require proper pronoun usage, confidentiality, respect and dignity.
--Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
The new policy gets rid of old, arbitrary requirements for specific medical treatments to update SSA records, even though these may not be available or appropriate for every person. The SSA's revised policy is one of the last remaining major federal agency policies to drop these outdated requirements.NCTE, NGLTF, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights worked together for seven years to obtain this result.
Prior to this policy update, trans people risked being unsafely outed to front line Social Security staff and to health care providers, or faced losing health care coverage already available to beneficiaries because a bureaucratic hiccup.
--Harper Jean Tobin, NCTE