Social Security Administration removes surgical requirement for changing gender designation

In what advocates are calling a major victory, the SSA has updated its regulations for transgender people

By Katie McDonough

Published June 14, 2013 9:55PM (EDT)


The Social Security Administration on Friday issued new regulations allowing transgender people to change their gender on federal documents without undergoing sex reassignment surgery, as not all transgender individuals choose to transition this way.

Instead, the administration will accept a letter from the person’s doctor confirming that they have undergone “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition,” but, as the National Center for Transgender Equality notes, "no specific type of treatment is required, and details of your treatment should not be included in the letter from your physician to the SSA."

“This is a tremendous victory for our community,” Ilona Turner, legal director of the Transgender Law Center, said in a statement. “The Social Security Administration was one of the last agencies to hold onto an outdated, one-size-fits-all standard for gender change. Transgender people will now be able to change all their federal documents with a simple letter from their doctor recognizing that they have undergone the appropriate treatment for them.”

The fluorescent-lit offices of the Social Security Administration may not seem like an obvious frontier for transgender equality, but the updated policy will change lives, according to Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality: "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" she said in a statement celebrating the change.



Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Lgbt Lgbt Equality Lgbt Rights Transgender People Transgender Rights