Today marks an important victory for the transgender community, even though it may appear to be a small paperwork technicality. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced that it is now much easier for trans people to change their gender identity on their Social Security records. All that will now be required, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, is for individuals to submit government-issued documentation reflecting a gender change, or a certification from a physician confirming they have undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.
This is a significant departure from the previous policy, which required documentation of complete sex reassignment surgery. Many trans people never undergo such procedures, either because they are too expensive, because they do not want to lose their procreative ability, or because it simply isn’t an important change for them to make to find authenticity in their identities. The SSA change eliminates this high standard for trans people to obtain the appropriate documentation for the gender that reflects how they live their daily lives.
Though Social Security cards do not display gender, the SSA does maintain that information as data, and it can impact other governmental programs. For example, individuals seeking coverage under Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Security Income, or other public benefits could face complications if their gender markers do not match from form to form and identification to identification. In addition to an invasion of their privacy, the discordance could even lead to a denial of benefits. The new change will eliminate the obstacles trans people can face to access protections they often need because of other forms of discrimination they otherwise experience in society.