Victory: Social Security Administration changes requirements for transgender people

The United States Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced a change to its policy that will allow transgender people to change the gender marker on their Social Security records without having undergone sex-reassignment surgery. This victory involved the work of many advocates and organizations, including the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and more. Under the new policy, transgender people would need to submit either government-issued documentation reflecting the change of their gender marker, or a letter of confirmation from a physician.

Transgender people face many barriers to gaining consistent legal identification. Each form of government-issued ID has different rules about altering the listed name and gender marker, with some requiring medical treatment (like sex-reassignment surgery) that many transgender people cannot access or do not want. As transgender people go about their daily lives, showing ID can become a source of anxiety about being outed or denied access to services.

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) notes that while the gender marker listed on one’s Social Security records does not overtly impact benefits, it can affect health insurance polices through Medicaid or Medicare in some cases. NCTE will also continue to advocate for the removal of gender markers from programs used to verify a person’s identity for purposes of employment, applying for public benefits, and other public programs.

"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," said NCTE Executive Director Mara Kiesling. "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."

"SSA's gender marker policy change will have a huge impact on low income people, people of color and disabled people who are transgender, gender non-conforming or intersex," said SRLP Director of Litigation & Advocacy Pooja Gehi. "Social Security cards are one of the most commonly relied upon forms of identification by government and consumer agencies. We hope that New York State's welfare and medicaid agencies will follow this example."

"This is a big win for LGBT equality," said Rea Carey, Task Force Executive Director. "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 significant change by the SSA will benefit many transgender people who face unnecessary hardships just to obtain ID that reflects who they really are," said GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz. "Even with this barrier removed, there is still much work to do toward full equality for transgender people." 

GLAAD urges the media to report on this significant change in SSA policy, and to visit NCTE’s Social Security resource page to find out more about these changes.