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Social Security issues new policy on gender marker changes
From The Task Force
2013-06-14

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WASHINGTON, June 14 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (Task Force) is commending the Social Security Administration (SSA) for being the latest federal agency to modernize its policy with regard to updating gender markers in Social Security records.

"This is a big win for LGBT 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," said Rea Carey, Task Force Executive Director. "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 new policy allows a person to update their gender marker if the individual has had "appropriate medical treatment," or can show they have updated their passport or birth certificate. About 50 percent of transgender people report being unable to update the gender on their records due to the restrictive policy (an archaic surgery requirement) that was in place until today, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey — a groundbreaking national study of over 6,400 people in the U.S. conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

SSA also issued guidelines on how staff should interact with transgender people. This includes important protections: confidentiality, proper pronoun usage, and treating transgender people with respect and dignity.

This win is particularly helpful for transgender older adults on Medicare because the gender marker on the face of Medicare ID cards is pulled directly from the Social Security database. State government agencies, including Medicaid, also often match data with SSA, causing problems for transgender people.

In 2010, the U.S. Department of State was the first federal agency to modernize its policy with regard to updating gender markers, replacing the outdated standard with the new "appropriate clinical treatment" standard. Since then, similar steps have been taken by several other agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security with regard to Green Cards and other immigration documentation, the Office of Personnel Management with regard to the personnel records of federal employees, and the Veterans Health Administration with regard to veterans' records. One remaining federal records system that has not yet adopted this policy is the Department of Defense. However, with the new SSA policy announced today, federal government agencies are nearly uniformly using a modernized standard.

To learn more about the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, visit www.theTaskForce.org ( www.thetaskforce.org/ ) and follow us on Twitter: @TheTaskForce ( www.twitter.com/thetaskforce&; .

From a National Center for Transgender Equality press release:

VICTORY: Social Security Admin. modernizes gender change policy for trans people

Revised policy a major milestone in Federal recognition of transgender people

Washington, DC - The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) applauds the Social Security Administration (SSA) for its decision today to change a policy protecting the privacy of transgender people.

The SSA has made it clearer and easier for transgender people to update the gender designation in Social Security records. The SSA joins other federal agencies like the U.S. State Department and the Veterans Health Administration in recognizing the realities of transgender lives and replacing outdated policies.

"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 light of the updated policy, NCTE has a released a guide to understanding the modernized policy called Transgender People and the Social Security Administration. The new resource answers commonly asked questions about the updated policy. It also provides step-by-step information for how account holders can change the gender designation in their Social Security record.

The new policy allows transgender people to change the gender designation on their Social Security Records by submitting either government-issued documentation reflecting a change, or certification from a physician confirming that they have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. This policy replaces SSA's outdated policy, which required documentation of specific surgeries. The U.S. Military are the last remaining federal agencies to rely on the outdated requirements to change gender. Old policies remain for the military's discharge papers as well as several other records systems, forcing veterans and retirees to meet extremely burdensome and unreasonable requirements t update their pension and service records.

NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin said, "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."

"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," said Tobin.

Keisling added, "Importantly, Social Security records are gateways to so many other kinds of identity documents, from driver's licenses to employment records, all of us depend on it in one way or another. This seemingly minor technical improvement touches every aspect of our lives and will have a profound impact on changing the way transgender people live and work."

NCTE worked for seven years in collaboration with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. We will continue working to ensure that transgender people have access to identity records and documents that match their gender identity.

To learn more, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano at vvillano@transequality.org, (o) 202-903-0112 (c) 202-631-9640.

Download NCTE's new resource for understanding the policy here: www.transequality.org/Resources/SSAResource_June2013.pdf .

View the updated SSA policy here: secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0110212200 .

The National Center for Transgender Equality is a national social justice organization devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people through education and advocacy on national issues of importance to transgender people. By empowering transgender people and our allies to educate and influence policymakers and others, NCTE facilitates a strong and clear voice for transgender equality in our nation's capital and around the country. The National Center for Transgender Equality is a 501(c)3 organization.


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