By Benjamin Goad - 06/15/13 07:47 PM EDT
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is implementing a policy change to make it easier for the transgender community to update their gender designation in records kept by the agency.
Transgender people can make the modification by submitting government-issued documents reflecting the new gender, or by presenting the SSA with “a medical certification of appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition,” according to the new rules.
Previously, the SSA required documentation of specific surgeries.
"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," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
The group, along with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, has pressed for the change for years.
Keisling said the new policy would have a profound affect on the lives of people in the transgender community. A 2011 UCLA study estimated there are approximately 700,000 transgender people living in the United States.
“Importantly, Social Security records are gateways to so many other kinds of identity documents, from driver's licenses to employment records, all of us depend on it in one way or another," she said.