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of State was the first federal agency to modernize its policy with regard to updating gender markers, replacing the outdated standard with the new “appropriate clinical treatment” standard.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.