The smoothest part of my transition paperwork saga to date was my experience yesterday at the Social Security Administration office. I didn’t realize anyone – transitioning or not – could have a smooth experience dealing with the Social Security Administration. It has an even worse reputation than the DMV, and my wretched and recent DMV experience put me on guard for a battle.
The only place local where I could change my Social Security card was a single office in Minneapolis located just far enough south of downtown that I couldn’t simply walk there (they’re convenient like that). But my manager offered to drive me there from work, so that proved to be painless (Quick aside: Did I mention my former supervisor was promoted to become my manager this week? It’s so cool! I now have a rock-solid ally even further up the chain of command.).
We got to the building just after they opened, and saw a line stretching out the door. “Here we go!” I thought, sure that a two hour wait was about to begin at the back of that scraggly looking line. But once we parked (easily finding a spot in the adjacent parking lot, I should add) we noticed a sign directing people with Social Security Card matters to go to a different door on the other side of the building.
Once through that door a woman quickly and politely handed me a number, and instructed me to sit and wait for my number to be called. The waiting room wasn’t very full, but was considerably more multi-ethnic and less scraggly than the people lining up outside the other door had been. I settled in to chat with my manager about work related stuff, but within little more than five minutes my number was called.
I headed back to the interview area to meet the assigned case worker. He was a man in his late 20’s – early 30’s. He greeted me with smile and a “Hello Ma’am,” asking what I needed. I told him I was there to make a name change on my social security card. I told him I had the court order with me.
He nodded while I passed over my name change application (which I’d filled out previously online and printed out). He looked it over and I got nervous. Here’s where he was going to get his first notion that I was a trans person, as my previous name was very clearly male.
Before he was finished looking it over I handed over my court order, as if challenging him with the force of law. His expression remained just as friendly and professional as he took it. As he carefully read over the court order, I knew the trans genie was definitely out of the bottle.
When he told me he needed some identification I expected the worst. I handed over my ugly, old, very male drivers license, and tried to hand over the yellow paper to show I had applied for my new one in my new name name. In a friendly tone he explained that he didn’t need the yellow paper. Just the old license was fine.
Flumoxed by how easily this seemed to be going, I handed over my old social security card. He explained he couldn’t give that back to me. I’d have to wait for my new card. … Wait a minute… did he just imply that I was getting a new card? He hadn’t even thrown any roadblocks at me yet. He had only asked for the bare minimum level of documentation. For gosh sake, he hadn’t even made a funny face upon learning that I was trans!
After he finished entering information from my forms into his computer, he printed something out and had me look it over to make sure it was correct. I did, and it was. He asked me a couple of questions, apologizing as he did because they were already covered on the application. I had to tell him my birth city and county (Omaha and Douglas, FWIW). Then I had to swear that all the information I was provided was accurate as far as I knew. It was, and I did.
And then he handed out a paper that served as a sort of “receipt,” explaining that my new card should be arriving in about two weeks. I asked him about that a bit incredulously. Two weeks… really? He laughed and told me yes. I sometimes takes longer of there are citizenship issues, but since I’m an American citizen there should be no hold ups.
And with that he said, “Have a nice day, Ma’am,” and I headed back out. The whole thing had taken about five minutes.
I’m sure this would have been more difficult if I had tried to press the gender change issue as well. But based on the experience and advice of friends, I didn’t. That will be revisited in my post-op phase. But still… I was blown away by how easy this was. And how politely and kindly I was treated. I didn’t get any of the transphobic treatment – even subtly. There was no bureaucracy thrown in my way. There was no judgment or singling out of any kind from start to finish. I could get used to this kind of treatment.
Anyway, I’m definitely not thrilled about the overall state of Social Security policy in regard to handling trans issues. It’s BS that they can require proof of specific surgical procedures to make basic documentation changes about my gender (surgical procedures which insurance companies classify as “cosmetic” I might add – can you think of any other people who require “cosmetic” surgery to update basic government paperwork?). But as far as the way I was treated and the overall professionalism of the people I encountered there? Take a lesson, other government agencies. More of that, please.