Social Security Removes Surgical Requirement for Gender Marker Change

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com June 14 2013 2:17 PM ET

The Social Security Administration today announced a revision to its policy around changing one's gender marker on a Social Security card, in a move hailed by transgender advocacy groups as a victory. 

The SSA removed its requirement that transgender people wanting to amend their gender on a Social Security card provide proof of gender reassignment surgery, opting instead for more inclusive language simply mandating that a transgender person provide a passport or birth certificate reflecting their accurate gender, or a certification from a physician confirming that the individual has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. The SSA's revision brings its policy in line with changes made in the past three years by the U.S. State Department and Veterans Health Administration

"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 heralding the announcement.

"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 a statement issued by Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “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.” 

NCTE notes that the SSA also issued guidelines for interviewing transgender people, assuring appropriate pronoun usage, confidentiality, and respect and dignity. For more information on how the change impacts trans Americans, check out NCTE's resource page here.

In other gender-related news, Australia is set to formally recognize a third gender beginning July 1, according to the Herald Sun. While Australians can still identify as male or female, government forms will now also include a gender "X" option, signifying indeterminate, intersex, or unspecified. 

"Transgender and intersex people in Australia face many issues trying to ensure the gender status on their personal records matches the gender they live and how they are recognized by the community," attorney Gebera Mark Dreyfus said in a statement Thursday. Dreyfus noted that the change will provide a practical improvement in the everyday lives of trans, intersex, or gender-nonconforming Australians.