THE Equality Tribunal has awarded a transgender woman €5,000 in compensation after she was discriminated against by AIB.
Dublin-born Deirdre O'Byrne (44) changed her name in October 2010 by deed poll, but when she approached the bank to change the name and gender on her account she ran into difficulties.
"One of the steps involved in the long, fraught and difficult process of transition is correcting the legal consequences of being registered at birth in a different gender," Ms O'Byrne told the Herald.
"What should have been a simple matter of going into the bank and presenting a few documents instead turned into a three-year battle.
"I hope the bank, and all other institutions, will now ensure they have simple, straightforward procedures for transgender people to easily correct the consequences of a condition we were born with."
The tribunal ruled that Ms O'Byrne had been discriminated against on gender grounds and ordered the bank to review its policies in relation to people who change their names.
"I've always wondered if the day would come when the bank would turn around and say to me, 'Sorry, we do not believe this money is yours'," she said.
"I welcome the finding that it is irrelevant whether I've had any particular surgeries.
"My gender is in my head and in my heart, and not between my legs.
"My genitals are not the business of anyone I choose to bank with.
"But worst of all is the way that the bank still uses my birth name when addressing me in their correspondence – this is in spite of being asked on a number of occasions to at least address me in my true name.
"In November 2013, they sent a letter addressed to my birth name to an address that I had just moved out of, thereby possibly outing me to my former landlady."
In 2010, shortly after she changed her name, Ms O'Byrne approached AIB and told them of the change.
The bank changed the name and gender on her AIB credit card, but refused to change the name on her Cashsave account and asked her to close it.
"I was aware of other transgender people who had successfully changed the name on their AIB accounts without having to close them down," said Ms O'Byrne.
"I was not going to participate in my own discrimination by complying with AIB's request to close my account."
When she queried the bank's decision and received no satisfactory answer, she took the matter to the Financial Services Ombudsman, who accepted AIB's contention that she had changed not only her name but her entire legal identity.
"I do not accept the contention that I changed my identity – for the first time in my life I am affirming my identity," said Ms O'Byrne.
"I've always been a transgender person."