MIT Reduces Paperwork for Gender Changes

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: A headline last Wednesday, “Sex Changes Just Got Easier!” was offensive as well as technically inaccurate. The headline has been changed to “MIT Reduces Paperwork for Gender Changes” on our website. Headlines are not written by the bylined authors of articles, but by The Tech's News Editors. We did not intend to offend or make light of the difficulties associated with sex and gender transitions. We apologize. “Sex” refers to the physical characteristics of a body, but “gender” refers to a personal sense of identity. MIT's policy changes had no effect on the ease of a sex reassignment, merely on the administrative difficulties of recording a gender change. Sex reassignment and gender change are processes which are never “easy,” and to state that one got “easier” because of an administrative change diminishes the difficulty of the process. - The Volume 129 News Editors The January 27 gender change article (see note) also incorrectly claimed the Registrar's Office modeled its policy on that of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. While the RMV’s policies inspired those who lobbied the Registrar for the change, the Registrar did not base MIT's policy on the RMV's policy.

MIT Reduces Paperwork for Gender Changes

The Registrar’s Office has modified its requirements for students to officially change their recorded gender. Since last week, instead of requiring evidence of sex-change surgery, students now may provide documentation from a licensed health care professional to verify their gender with the Registrar.

The former requirement for surgery was a “very high bar,” said Abigail M. Francis, program coordinator for LBGT services, resources, and outreach at MIT. While many transgendered students may be confident in their gender identity, they may not necessarily wish to undergo a full sex-change because of financial or personal reasons.

“The world has moved on a bit since we developed [the old] policy,” said Assistant Registrar Peter R. Hayes.

The alteration to the Registrar’s policy came after a four year effort by the Trans Issues Group — an informal group of students, faculty and staff who work on transgendered concerns at MIT — to update the requirement. Many possible options were discussed, and the Registrar’s Office finally decided to model its gender change policy after that of Massachusetts’s Registry of Motor Vehicles.

After approximately two months of discussion between the Registrar’s Office and MIT’s Office of General Counsel to confirm the legality of the change, the new policy was finalized.

While there is no general policy among universities regarding gender change, MIT’s new policy is among the most accepting, Francis said.

Francis and the Trans Issues Group will monitor how the change affects transgendered students, working with groups such as MIT Housing and Medical and Mental Health to ensure a smooth implementation of the policy.

“This is really a great step in the right direction … this policy could be very helpful for trans students,” Francis said.

—Meghan Nelson