Changing my documented gender with the Department of DefenseBottom Highlights, Trans Progressive Thursday, May 16th, 2013
Commentary: Trans Progressive
During the past few years I’ve been changing my documented gender at various government agencies. I’ve obtained a court ordered change of documented gender with the state of California and used that court order to obtain a new birth certificate indicating I was born female. I also have provided required documents and followed specified procedures for changing my recorded gender with the Department of State (for a passport), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Social Security Administration.
The one last government agency that still recorded my gender as male was the Department of Defense (DOD). But, as of April 12, that changed. My recorded gender with the DOD is now female.
OutServe-SLDN and I are announcing today, May 16, that I’ve changed my documented gender with the Department of Defense. We’ve together documented which documents are required to change one’s electronic gender marker in the DOD’s databases, and the procedures and service specific addresses for submitting those documents to the four DOD military services. In a very direct way, documenting and publishing procedures will give other trans military retirees a template for how to accomplish changing their own DOD documented gender.
Documenting the DOD specific procedures have also put a spotlight on how different the required documents and procedures are for changing one’s recorded gender for the State Department, VA, Social Security Administration and DOD. The State Department and VA, in accordance with procedures found in Volume 7 of the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual, require a letter which “upon presentation of a signed original statement, on office letterhead, from a licensed physician who has treated the applicant for his/her gender-related care or reviewed and evaluated the gender-related medical history of the applicant” will result in the issuance of a full validity U.S. passport or change of one’s recorded gender in the VA’s databases.
The DOD’s requirements are more onerous. They require all of the following documents to change one’s recorded gender:
1. Changed birth certificate (original or notarized copy)
2. Court order: name change document (original or notarized copy)
3. Notarized letter indicating surgical transition letter
4. Court order: change of gender (original or notarized copy)
5. Copy of updated Social Security Card or notarized copy of current Social Security Benefits indicating changed name and SSN
6. Copy of driver’s license, state-issued ID card, or passport with new name and gender indicated
The following additional document is a required document if one has a spouse that is enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS):
7. Notarized letter from the retired servicemember’s spouse indicating that he or she understands that after the DOD documents the gender change they will lose their Tricare coverage.
Considering that only approximately half the states in the Union allow changes to birth certificates to change one’s gender, the DOD policy on changing a veteran’s recorded gender is out of reach of a large number of trans former servicemembers.
In publicly documenting how onerous the current DOD’s policy is for changing recorded gender, I know I hope that the spotlight will bring pressure to bear on the DOD to change their policy.
And, changing one’s recorded name and/or gender at the DOD won’t result in being able to obtain an updated DD214 – a servicemember’s Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. According to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records’ Applicant’s Guide To Applying To The Army Board For Correction Of Military Records:
“If you have a name, gender, or social security number (SSN) change after discharge from the military, even if it is court ordered, the name and gender on your military records will not be changed since they are historical documents which record facts during the time you served in the military. If you need a certificate to show your current name or gender and that you served in the military under another, you can request such from the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records …”
Perhaps putting a spotlight on how trans veterans aren’t able to update their DD214’s to show their changed name and DOD recorded gender will also put a spotlight on how that policy should change too.
Documenting the current DOD process to change one’s recorded gender, though, is the first step toward changing DOD policies that harm trans servicemembers and veterans.
I’ll be working with OutServe-SLDN into the future to do just that.
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