Social Security Administration Updates Policy to Protect Privacy of Transgender Individuals
June 14, 2013 by Robin Maril, Senior Legislative Counsel
Today the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced a new policy that will modernize and standardize the process for changing the gender designation in Social Security records. This new policy will allow transgender people to maintain their privacy and prevent unnecessary outing to Social Security staff and to healthcare providers. Under the revised policy, transgender people will be able to change their gender on their Social Security records by submitting either government-issued documentation that reflects a change, or certification from a physician that confirms that they have received clinical treatment for gender transition. Today’s revised policy removes arbitrary requirements for specific medical treatments in order to update the gender designation in Social Security records. This change is in line with policies adopted by other federal agencies including the Department of State, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Veterans Health Administration. The SSA has also provided staff with guideline on respectful treatment of transgender individuals.
Social Security records are used as a primary entry point for accessing many other forms of identification and records. These records are used in everything from employment to housing. Prior to today’s policy change many transgender people lived with records that failed to reflect their accurate gender and were often incongruent with their other forms of identification. This created a very real threat of unsafe and unnecessary outing of individuals to employers, co-workers, and medical providers. Today’s policy and accompanying guidance is an important step towards ensuring the safety and privacy of transgender people across the country.
HRC urged SSA to take this important step as part of its Blueprint for Positive Change, a series of recommendations to the Obama administration for regulatory and policy changes that would improve the lives of LGBT Americans, without the need for Congress to act. HRC also applauds the work of the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights on their significant work with SSA on this issue.
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