The Social Security Administration will now allow people to self-select their gender on their Social Security number record.
The policy, announced Wednesday, is effective immediately.
"The Social Security Administration's Equity Action Plan includes a commitment to decrease administrative burdens and ensure people who identify as gender diverse or transgender have options in the Social Security number card application process," Acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi said in a press release. "This new policy allows people to self-select their sex in our records without needing to provide documentation of their sex designation."
Those who update their gender marker in Social Security's records will need to apply for a replacement Social Security card. They will still need to show a current document to prove their identity, but they will no longer need to provide medical or legal documentation of their sex designation now that the policy change is in place.
The agency will accept the applicant's self-identified designation of either male or female, even if it is different from the designation shown on identity documents, such as a passport or state-issued driver's license or identity card. SSN cards do not include sex markers. Currently, Social Security's record systems are unable to include a nonbinary or unspecified sex designation. The agency is exploring possible future policy and systems updates to support an X gender designation for the card application process.
"We applaud the Social Security Administration taking this step to modernize the process for changing the gender marker on someone's records," Olivia Hunt, policy director at the National Center for Transgender Equality, told The Advocate via email. "Self-attestation is the correct standard for updating this information -- transgender and nonbinary people are the experts on what their gender is, and requirements for medical certification are an unnecessary hurdle that nobody should have to deal with just to get the correct information on their government records and identity documents.
"Making this process faster and more accessible will make the frustrating and time-consuming process of changing one's name and gender marker on their ID documents just that much easier. We encourage the SSA to continue to modernize their systems by introducing an X gender marker option as well as creating a process for updating personal information on their records without requiring a time-consuming and unnecessary visit to a Social Security office."
The option to self-identify on federal documents aligns with recommendations outlined in the Human Rights Campaign's 2020 Blueprint for Positive Change, that organization noted. "Official documents that reflect an individual's true identity are essential to allowing them to lead dignified lives," said a statement from HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. "The Human Rights Campaign commends the U.S. Social Security Administration for allowing individuals to self-identify their gender on social security records, a move that will mitigate the risk of discrimination, harassment and violence faced by millions of transgender Americans. We continue to urge other administrative agencies to follow suit in adopting inclusive policies that recognize and affirm transgender people."