The Social Security Administration announced Friday a policy change long sought by advocates that will protect the privacy of transgender people and make it easier for transgender people to update their gender designation on necessary Social Security documents.
"Effective June 2013, Social Security is making changes to policies that may impact the transgender community in order to ensure we provide meaningful access to our programs," Social Security spokesperson Kia Anderson said in an email to Metro Weekly. "Specifically, we are making it easier for transgender individuals who wish to change their sex on our Social Security Number (SSN) records by accepting new types of evidence. We are no longer requiring surgery to change the sex identification field in our SSN records."
Social Security will now accept a range of different documentation to update the gender field in Social Security records, including a state-issued birth certificate, passport, court order, letter from a surgeon or medical certification.
"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" said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a statement.
According to Keisling, the policy change, which advocates have sought for seven years, will have ramifications for transgender people in a variety of ways. Although Social Security cards do not indicate a person's gender, the Social Security Administration still keeps records of gender, which are often used in other programs. For example, Medicare is directly connected to Social Security
"All information for Medicare comes from Social Security, including the gender marker on the Medicare card," Keisling said. "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."
The Social Security Administration has been considering the change over the past year and working with other government agencies to come up with a consistent policy across the government.
"The new policy gets rid of old, arbitrary requirements ... where people had to submit proof of specific medical treatments to update SSA records, even though these may not be available or appropriate for every person. The SSA's revised policy makes it is one of the last remaining major federal agency policies to drop these outdated requirements," said NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin in a statement. The military's pension system and other record keeping systems still require requirements abandoned by the Social Security Administration today for gender designations."
Added Tobin, "Prior to this policy update, trans people risked being unsafely outed to front line Social Security staff as well as to any number of other bureaucrats and people they interacted with in their daily lives."
[Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]