Transgender woman wins case against AIB over name change

Equality Tribunal awards €5,000 to customer for discrimination after bank refuses to alter account

Deirdre Katherine O’Byrne (44) feels ’vindicated’ after she was awarded €5,000 by the Equality Tribunal

Deirdre Katherine O’Byrne (44) feels ’vindicated’ after she was awarded €5,000 by the Equality Tribunal

Fri, Jan 17, 2014, 17:44

A transgender woman has won a discrimination case against AIB because it refused to alter the name on her bank account after she had legally changed it by deed poll.

Dublin-born Deirdre Katherine O’Byrne (44) told the Irish Times that she feels “vindicated” after she was awarded €5,000 by the Equality Tribunal. The tribunal has ordered the bank to review its policy in relation to people who change their name.

The IT worker and physics graduate changed her name by deed poll in October 2010 and asked the bank to change it on her account. However the bank refused to change the name on her cashsave account from her birth name and told her she would have to close it and open an account in her new name.

Document: Equality Tribunal decision

“I was so annoyed at the bank’s behaviour towards me I was determined to see it through to the end,” she said today.

The bank argued before the tribunal that a person who changes their gender changes their identity and that anyone who changes their name by deed poll must close their existing accounts.

However Ms O’Byrne’s side argued before the tribunal that she did not change her identity nor did she change gender but affirmed her true gender.

Transgender is a term for people whose gender identify is different from the sex assigned to them at birth. Because transgender people go through a transition over various periods of time there is no stage where a person has changed gender from one to another, Ms O’Byrne’s side argued.

“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.

“What should have been a simple matter of going into the bank and presenting a few documents instead turned into a 3 year battle,” Ms O’Byrne said as she released details of the Equality Tribunal’s decision today.

The issue led to some problems such as in January 2012 when the bank would not accept a cheque made out to Deirdre O’Byrne as ’a/c payee only’.

Ms O’Byrne said she had been aware of other transgender people who had successfully changed the name on their AIB accounts. However the Equality Tribunal did not use the comparable case of a transgender person but of a married woman.

AIB argued that Ms O’Byrne’s case was different to a woman changed her name by marriage because that customer may choose to revert to their birth surname at any time.

However the tribunal used the example of how a woman who changes her name after getting married to show that Ms O’Byrne was treated differently and was being discriminated against on gender grounds .

It ordered AIB to pay her €5,000 in compensation and ordered the bank to review its policy in relation to people who wish to change their names on their accounts.

“AIB is in the process of reviewing our policy,” a spokeswoman said today.

Ms O’Byrne welcomed the finding in a statement today. 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 bank with!”, she said.

“It is great to be able to do something for other people and hopefully make it easier for other people down the line,” she said.

She called on the Government to ensure that “ all organisations and institutions are required to recognise the true identity of transgender people with the minimum amount of fuss and effort, so that no-one else has to do what I had to”.