Gender Change with Social Security

The Social Security Administration has a pretty convoluted list of documents they’ll accept for a gender change. See FAQ here for more on that, but to narrow it down a little, they want to see one of the following:

  • Full-validity, 10-year U.S. passport showing the new gender;
  • State-issued amended birth certificate showing the new gender;
  • Court order directing legal recognition of change of gender;
  • Medical certification of appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition in the form of an original letter from a licensed physician. The document must have enough biographical data (e.g., name and date of birth) to clearly identify you.

In another area of the website, it goes on that the “medical letter” entails “medical certification of appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition in the form of an original signed statement from a licensed physician (i.e., a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.)). The statement must include the following:”

  • physician’s full name;
  • medical license or certificate number;
  • issuing state, country, or other jurisdiction of medical license or certificate;
  • address and telephone number of the physician;
  • language stating that the individual has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition to the new gender (male or female);
  • language stating the physician has either treated the individual in relation to the individual’s change in gender or has reviewed and evaluated the medical history of the individual in relation to the individual’s change in gender and that the physician has a doctor/patient relationship with the individual;
  • language stating “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the forgoing is true and correct.”

So to be clear, to get a 10-year validity passport (NOT a 2-year validity), a physician must certify that your transition is “complete”. If it’s in progress, you’re only eligible for a 2 year gender-amended passport…and if you’ve ever applied for a passport, you know that this is a time-consuming process. Birth certificates for option 2 vary by state, and you can check out Lambda Legal’s guide for your particular state. I, on the other hand, have a federally-issued certificate of birth abroad, which is just slightly easier to change than a passport, and not really a viable short term option. Court-ordered gender changes? Honestly, hell if I know how to proceed there. It looks to me like you have to take a lot of the same physician letter information to court and request it. So basically, the only way to change your gender on federal records is to have your doctor state “under penalty of perjury” that you are of “xx” gender.

So when I went into the SSA this morning to change my name, I wasn’t expecting them to be lenient on that policy. I went in with my name change paperwork and the 1-page form that my state’s DMV requires to change my gender. I was expecting them to tell me that my form didn’t have all the info I needed, wasn’t signed by an MD or DO (my therapist signed it) or that it wasn’t on their letterhead or any other loophole they could find to not accept the form. The rep I talked to was fantastic; I wish I’d gotten her name. I handed her my form and she told me she’d never seen that particular form before, so she’d have to run it by her supervisor. She came back to the window, said the supervisor said that form was fine, made a copy and gave me my original back (so I can take it to DMV later this week). So now in 7-10 days, I’ll have my new social security card with my new name and, even though it won’t be listed on the card, I know that it’s now listed as “male”. It’s my first official anything with that big old “M” on it and it feels amazing.

Until Next Time,


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