independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Transgender woman wins €5,000 after AIB's refusal to change name

Deirdre O'Byrne
Deirdre O'Byrne

A transgender woman has been awarded €5,000 by the Equality Tribunal after AIB refused to record her new name on her cashsave account.

Deirdre O'Byrne (44) from Stillorgan in Dublin, took the case when the bank repeatedly insisted she would have to close her existing account and open up another one in her new name.

In addition, AIB continued to correspond with her using her old name -- which "caused her considerable distress".

The tribunal ruled in favour of Ms O'Byrne, finding that she was discriminated against on gender grounds.

"What should have been a simple matter of going into the bank and presenting a few documents instead turned into a three-year battle," Ms O'Byrne said following the case.

"I hope the bank, and all other institutions, will now ensure they have simple, straightforward procedures for transgender people to easily correct the consequence of a condition we were born with," she added.

In a submission to the tribunal, Ms O'Byrne outlined how she underwent a "difficult and challenging transition" after which she was able to establish her true gender.

"Following this process, and as part of it, on October 21, 2010, the complainant changed her name by deed poll to Deirdre Katherine O'Byrne," a summary of the case states.

She then went to an AIB branch to make them aware of the change of name.

"Two days later, she was phoned by her own branch and was told she would have to close her cashsave account in her birth name and open up a new account in her new name," the documents show.

Ms O'Byrne contended she was treated differently from other people in comparable situations. She asserted that discrimination on the grounds of gender also applies to transgender people.

After Ms O'Byrne made a complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman, AIB told her, in a letter dated March 22, 2012, that the first five digits of the account were held uniquely for her birth name.

The ombudsman found in favour of the bank.

Among the arguments put forward by AIB was that, while it permits changes of names for people who get married, it was different from Ms O'Byrne's situation in that she "changed her legal identity".

However the tribunal found "no fundamental difference" between a person who changes their name by deed poll and a person who changes their name through marriage or entering into a civil partnership.

It concluded Ms O'Byrne, a transgender woman, was treated differently than someone permitted to change their account name following marriage.

Irish Independent

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