Social Security Rule Change Further Erodes Transgender and Intersex Right to Employment
By Christine Johnson,
On October 3, 2002, the Social Security Administration implemented a rule change that will further erode the economic security of transgendered and intersexed people in this country. The rule, RM 00203.210, entitled “Changing Numident Data – Name Change” requires that any changes to the sex designation in Social Security records must be accompanied by “Clinic or medical records or other combination of documents showing the sex change surgery has been completed. All documents must clearly identify the NH.” NH stands for number holder – your social security number.
According to a National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) press release, the Social Security Administration (SSA) “runs a periodic audit of company records and the gender markers don’t match. SSA advises the company that there is an error in the company’s records and directs the company to correct its records. This sends the boss or someone from payroll to the person’s worksite asking, ‘Why doesn’t your gender match what Social Security says it is_’ And another transsexual is ousted and legally subject to termination in most locations.”
This is a very significant development and illustrates the tenuous circumstances that are increasingly facing transgender and intersex individuals, particularly given the failure of Congress to guarantee protection from discrimination in the workplace. In the absence of such protections, the federal government has implemented a rule that will undoubtedly result in increased anxiety, loss of economic security, and an increase in the physical risks that all gender variant people encounter.
It is interesting to note that many of the problems of identity management faced by gender variant people are directly related to the erosion of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution due to the increased use of computer databases by government agencies. To review, the Fourth Amendment states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath and affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Of course, at the time that the Constitution was written, proof of identity was what the framers called “papers.” But as government agencies have increasingly used computer databases to maintain records of people which are housed in numerous government offices, it is clear that we no longer have control over our own identities. This has eroded the protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, because the government no longer needs a warrant in order to search our “papers.” They in fact hold our papers.
Businesses hold our papers; all sorts of entities that we may or may not want to have this information have it, and we are increasingly at the mercy of those who make decisions about us which are based upon information with which we are not capable to managing or controlling, and in many cases, we are not permitted to make corrections to erroneous data, because the files are secretly held. Since 9/11/2001, this situation has degraded significantly.
The so-called PATRIOT ACT, a McCarthy-esque Act rammed through Congress – which, by the way, was actually read before the vote by only one member of Congress, Russ Feingold, has further eroded the protections guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment, because it removes the requirement for judicial oversight of searches, and this includes searches of papers, or documents relating to identity, which again, we no longer control.
And in very recent developments, John Poindexter, that 5 time felon from the Iran Contra scandal, has been put in charge of a new integrated data collection system that the Pentagon is planning to use to compile extensive dossiers on every citizen of the United States. According to the ACLU:
November 18, 2002
the past few days, press reports have revealed that a little-known Defense
Department office has begun developing a computer system that would provide
officials with the ability to snoop into all htmlects of our private lives
without a search warrant or proof of criminal wrongdoing.
Pentagon's new Office of Information Awareness is building a system called
“Total Information Awareness” that would effectively provide government
officials with immediate access to our personal information: all of our
communications (phone calls, emails and web searches), financial records,
purchases, prescriptions, school records, medical records and travel history.
Under this program, our entire lives would be catalogued and available to
Gender variant people need to be aware of the risks to their personal and economic security that such a system would entail, and it very clearly illustrates that the “War on Terrorism” is simply a pretext for eliminating virtually every right that is guaranteed under the Constitution. Because the motives for terrorism have more to do with the imperialistic behavior of the United States Government around the world, the best way to combat terrorism would be to treat other countries the way we would wish to be treated, rather than assisting with assassinations, fomenting revolutions and coups, using economic coercion in the form of “structural adjustment,” and other policies that are detrimental to the security of the people of the United States.
Instead, the government has chosen to attempt to “control” the terrorism problem by instilling fear via the media and by framing the debate in black and white terms, such as “You are either with us or against us,” and apparently we are supposed to believe that we should be willing to sacrifice our civil liberties in order to combat terrorism. But as Benjamin Franklin so aptly observed “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”