On the afternoon of May 4th, 2004, my quiet life was disrupted after the Social Security Administration had notified my workplace that my gender at work did not match the gender marker on my Social Security file.† I had known that the Social Security Administration still had me listed as my birth sex, and that they would not change my record to female until I had completed the sex reassignment surgery.† But others had assured me that my workplace would never find out about this, so I could move to a new job where nobody knew about my past, and then work to save the funds that I needed for my SRS.
What had I done to attract the attention of a federal agency?† I merely strived to be known as just another woman among my neighbors and coworkers while I was still pre-op.
In response to fears after 911, the Social Security Administration quietly changed their policy and stated that they would not change the gender marker on a personís record until she had completed sexual reassignment surgery.† Until now, some transitioners were able to have their markers changed after merely beginning genital surgery by getting an orchiectomy, or sometimes a clerk would have sympathy and change the gender marker for anyone who was changing their name and was serious about making the social transition.
It had taken me several years to save the funds for the facial electrolysis and hair replacement system which would make my successful transition possible.† I was transitioning two months too late to have my Social Security gender marker changed.
Earlier this month a county judge had approved of my court ordered name change to Sherry, and I was eager to have my name changed on other documents.† Today I got off of work early enough to drive to the local Social Security office before it closed.
The clerks were more than willing to process my name change, but they told me that they could not change the gender on my record even though I already had an orchiectomy.† I would have to obtain SRS before they would change my marker.† Worried, I asked the clerk if the Social Security Administration would ever tell any workplace that I had transitioned or that I still had a male gender marker, and she assured me that they would not.† I left the office believing that I could work anywhere without my workplace finding out about my history.
Some TS friends at a support group had assured me that I should be able to go stealth wherever I moved to, and added to the clerkís reassurance to not worry about the gender marker on my Social Security record.
The chicken plant where I was working at permitted me to transition in their workplace.† But the management was reducing everyoneís overtime hours, and I feared I would not be able to save funds to get my surgery and finish my process.† I also began to develop carpal tunnel syndrome from my many years in the chicken plant, and knew that I needed to find different work to save my hands.† As a result of my transition, I was free to be and act like myself all the time, but I felt that I was missing something by working with coworkers and living with neighbors who knew about my transition.
In the fifth month of my new real life, I decided to quit my job at the chicken plant, and move away to another city where I could live with neighbors and coworkers who didnít know about my past, and would therefore treat me as another ordinary woman.† It would take a few years for me to save the funds for my final surgery, and I did not want to wait until I was post-op to be stealth.
One week after I moved to my new city, a temp agency placed me in a light industrial assignment.† I had put my transition to the test, and had successfully passed that test.† I had found employment in the name of Sherry, and I soon moved to a safer apartment.† I immediately noticed a difference in the way neighbors and coworkers perceived me, and realized that this was how I had always been meant to live.† 75 days later, the company where I was assigned hired me permanently, and I could now begin to quietly accumulate the funds to finish my transition.
My life settled back to an ordinary routine of working, resting, and working more, but now I was living this ordinary life as myself, and I was being treated as myself.
I thought the storm was over, and that it would be calm from here on out.† I would just quietly accumulate the funds for SRS, and then have that surgery and quietly finish my transition.† Perhaps I was just in the calm eye of the storm, because almost a year after I moved here, the second half of the storm suddenly arrived with a vengeance.
May 4th, 2004
At eight minutes before 2:00 PM, we had finished production and I was cleaning up the station before turning it over to the second shift workers.† After stocking the station with parts, I was carrying two emptied boxes to the dumpster.† They had let me come an hour early this morning at 4AM to help set up the department.† My ten hours for today was almost finished, and I was ready to go home and rest before the next workday.† Eight more minutes, and I would be one day closer to my SRS and my body the way it was supposed to be.
One of the HR clerks had recently left the company, and the man who had replaced her seemed to appear from nowhere, and asked me if I had filled out something like an I-9 form.† Do you have your drivers license and Social Security card with you?† There was some problem with my file, and they needed to verify my Social Security number and birthdate.† Had there been a problem with my name change that was now catching up with me?† Then I remembered the gender marker.† No, they had told me that would never happen.
I feared that something was terribly wrong.† OK, I canít have this happening out here in the production floor; I must move this into the privacy of the HR office.† So I told the clerk I would show him my driverís license if he would take me to his office.† I hoped this was nothing.† It has to be something like a keystroke error on my Social Security number, so the clerk will look this up on the computer, and everything will be all right.
I let the HR man look over my driverís license, and then he went to my record on the computer.† Is this your correct number?† Yes.† Is this your correct birthday?† Yes.† I was getting increasingly nervous.† Why was I in here?† He then opened the E-Mail that the corporate headquarters had sent to the local plant regarding ten employees with discrepancies in their files, which did not match the Social Security record.† He found my name, followed by the statement ĎNumber and birth date match, gender does not matchí.† The clerk at the Social Security office had told me this could never happen.
Oh no, what do I do now?† I comment that I never saw a gender marker on my Social Security card, and ask why they would bother with a gender marker if my name, number, and birthday were all correct?† The HR man told me that either his predecessor in HR or else SSA had made a typing error.† The HR clerk thanked me for my time and for verifying my number and birth date.
But I am feeling no better after I leave his office to clock out, gather my
things, and go home, because I now know that the feds are going to keep
after him about the gender inconsistency until either my company figures out
my past, or SSA actually looks into my file and tells them about the history
of my name changes.† OK, this is going to get out, and very soon, oh no, can
I possibly contain this?† Will the HR person keep this to himself once he
finds out, or am I in for disaster?
But if I don't tell him, won't he find out anyway as he communicates back
and forth with the corporate headquarters and the feds?† So there's nothing
to gain by not telling him at this point?
One conclusion I reach is, until the HR person solves this mystery, suppose
he would keep this to himself, but before he figures this out he might
involve others in this investigation without knowing the consequences for
me, and the more people who find out, the more likely everyone would find
out.† Oh no, I think I need to return to his office and make a preemptive
disclosure, maybe I can keep this contained?
I waited for a short while until he finished with a man in there, probably
an employee who has a mismatched number or birth date with the SSA.† When
this man is finished, I reenter the office and again lock the door behind
me.† I ask if I were to tell him something would it stay in this room, that
I was taking an awful chance, and that he might find this disturbing.† Well
he indicates that he would.† So now I tell him that I am TS, and that I've
pretty much made the transition, but that I haven't yet completed the
genital surgery, and the SSA won't change my gender indicator until I
complete the surgery.† I didn't tell him about my orchiectomy, but instead I
indicated that I had a 'first stage' surgery, but needed to save funds
before I could get the final stage in two to four years from now, so that
was the whole mystery behind the gender marker discrepancy.
So now he again tells me that he won't tell anyone about this, and assures
me he understands and that he knows of some gay people.† I am really worried
that he might spread this, or even if he does keep this to himself, he
either promotes or leaves the company and then I must face this all over
again and take my chances with another HR clerk in 2005 when the feds do
this again.† Life has been good since transition, and I am really afraid that I could lose the new life I worked so hard to gain last year.
Nothing else happened for two weeks.† I worried a lot for the next couple of days, and then felt more and more like nothing else would ever happen.
May 18th, 2004
Late in the workday, the HR man approached me again and asked me to come to his office after work. †Omigod, what was happening now, had I been disclosed to management?† I worried for the hour and a half until I could go to his office.
He told me that he was concerned about possible legal ramifications from my using the womenís restroom while I was still pre-op, and feared that if anyone ever found out about me, a woman might try to sue the company over my use of the womenís room before I had completed the surgery.† The restroom contained lockers and showers.† I had worked there for almost a year now, yet I had never noticed anyone changing clothes, and nobody had ever used the showers.† Perhaps the showers had not been used for years, because that is where the janitor stored all her cleaning equipment.† But just because the showers were there, and there was a theoretical possibility that someone might change clothes in there, the HR man was worried.
What could be done about this?† The man told me he was subordinate to the other HR clerk who was his boss, and that he would have to disclose me to her.† He then called her into his office, and I had to disclose all over again.† Now there were two people who knew, and I worried how much farther this would go.
There was one other restroom in the plant.† It was a single unit unisex room that the quality control associates used.† It was far enough away from my work area that I did not even know where it was, and in an area of the plant where I was still unfamiliar enough to get lost.† But I expressed my one true fear about having to use that restroom.† If I always walked all the way over there to use that little restroom at the exclusion of the main one, coworkers would notice and wonder why I wouldnít use the main restroom with the other women.† Then my social perceptions there would be in jeopardy, and I could be outed to the rest of the workplace.
They asked me when I would get the surgery, so that I would be post-op and then this issue with the restroom would cease.† I told them that I didnít have the funds to have SRS yet, and that I estimated my surgery for mid-2006.
For now the HR clerks would not insist that I go all the way to that restroom, and I could continue using the main restroom for now, but they would consider this.† It has been almost two weeks since this second shock, and I still fear further effects from the SSA having outed me.
I certainly thought it was unnecessary.† To inform employers that the gender markers of their pre-op employees do not match does not further homeland security.† Perhaps this reflects the conservative and rigid attitudes of many of our present-day leaders?
The HBIGDA SOC requires that we make our social transition one year or longer before our surgery.† I have no objection to those who wish to be out about their transition, yet I do believe that those of us who wish to be stealth should be permitted to do so even while pre-op.† I knew it would be a few years before I could get my surgery, and I did not want to wait that long to live life the way I was meant to live it.† I wish only what almost all of the three billion women on this planet take for granted, to be seen and treated as just another woman.
Since you had the orchiectomy, couldnít you already have the gender markers on your SSA record and your birth certificate changed?
When I had transitioned at the end of 2002, it was already too late to have my gender markers changed based on my orchiectomy surgery.† I did tell the SSA that I had orchiectomy, but it was not enough for them.
Recently a doctor informed me that she could not write a letter stating I was female because an external male organ still remained.† Some transsexuals still claim that they can have their gender markers changed after a mere orchiectomy, but I have found out for myself that this is not true.† As long as a penis remains, a doctor could not write a satisfactory letter implying complete sex change surgery without perjuring themselves.† Since the SSA would probably not accept a surgeonís verification letter from Thailand, a post-op who had her surgery in Thailand could probably have her doctor write and notarize a letter stating that she is now female, but a doctor cannot do this for me until Iíve actually had SRS.
To read more about the impossibilities of changing the gender markers after just an orchiectomy, go to my essay on Changing Legal Documents After Orchiectomy?
So all I can do for now is hope that nothing else happens at work, and continue working to save funds for my SRS, after which I hope to finally be able to change the gender markers on my Social Security records and birth certificate.
It is now May 4th, 2005, one year after the SSA outed me to my employer.† I have been fortunate to contain the knowledge of my history in the HR department, and I continue to work toward my SRS later this year.† I have been fortunate than many others who have also been outed by the SSA during the past three years.
After returning home from my SRS in October 2005, I went through a long and sometimes discouraging process to obtain a new birth certificate with my corrected name and sex.† Finally, on April 25th, 2006, I presented my surgery letters and a corrected birth certificate to a local SSA office.† The clerks kindly took me to a back area so I could be interviewed quietly, and then they changed the sex on my Social Security record to female.
It is very relieving to finally have this corrected.
Meanwhile, our US Congress has passed a Real-ID act.† Beginning on May 11th, 2008, states will be required to request your birth certificate (or other proof of US citizenship or legal residency) and your Social Security number when issuing drivers licenses and IDs.† Many states, including the one I now reside in, already match your information with Social Security.† I strongly recommend correcting both the name and sex on all of your records if at all possible.
Links to some more relevant information:
A clerk at the local SSA office assured me that the administration would never out me at work.† However, in only a few weeks after my visit to that SSA office (in December 2002), the SSA began using a new SSNVS employee verification system to match gender and other identity information provided by employers.† A few months later, this transsexual in Connecticut was outed in her workplace by a no-match letter regarding her gender.
Although you will need to have SRS before changing your gender marker, you can still change your name on the SSA record as you commence your legal and social transition.
If you were fortunate to receive a driverís license with a gender marker which matches your true gender identity, there is a risk that your state might demand that you exchange your license for one depicting your physical birth sex if your SSA record still has the marker from your birth gender.
SSA reply to a transsexual about gender marker policy (Adobe PDF file)
Note that if your employer voluntarily provides your gender along with other information for reporting wages, the SSA will inform the employer if the listed gender does not match.
Transcending Gender articles:
This article is about the current legal and social status of transsexuals, and several options for living in the current social climate.