Name campaign

Today i posted a funny story on my personal blog. It is about how i have changed my name at the inland revenue, with hardly any fuss and no rquirement for documentation whatsoever.

I also mention how my bank is one of several organisations that demands all manner of “proof of identity” before they will allow me to change my name on my personal account – although bizarrely, they will allow me to open a new account on the basis of various proofs, including a current tax document.

So soon, through its own pig-headedness, my bank will be in the position of having me as two separate customers. Bingo!

Behind this, however, lies a serious issue. It is the usual arse-covering by large organisations and bureaucratic middle management who can read their briefings, but not grasp the concepts written down. Banks are hung up on the idea that they need to maintain security – and one way of doing that is through checking identity.

So far, so fair. But a key issue is that they have then gone on to confuse identity with what someone is called. A serious mistake when it comes to english law.

So even when they KNOW who someone is – and we’re not just talking those in transition here, but almost every woman who has ever married or divorced, plus the occasional male who fancies being know by a different name – they demand documents. Deed polls. Marriage certificates. Statutory declarations.

They’re not expensive. They are an imposition. They are also discriminatory, since this requirement bears far more heavily on women – and the transgendered.

But…but…i hear the bankers stutter. Security. Fraud. Money laundering.


So long as they are sure you are the person entitled to whatever service is on offer, then no other checks should be required. The problem, of course, as i wrote in a rather more serious business place recently, is that most IT systems were set up by blokes.

And blokes don’t change their names. Much.

If systems were set up by people who DO tend to change their names, they would not be designed with name as a single one-value-at-a-time field. Systems would be designed with “known-as” and previous names: and they would allow the addition of names throughout an individual’s lifetime.

So long as John Smith meets security requirements when he tells his bank he wishes to be known as John Doe (or even Jane Doe) the system should cope. Sadly, though, a lot of the fuss seems most likely the result of systems designers not being able to get their head out of the rut that says one person, one life, one name.

Well: it is time for that to change. This summer i am putting together a paper to go winging its way into government in late august. If you have any interesting name experiences, particularly relating to organisational policy, please let me know.

If you happen to understand the policy of the various Gender Identity Clinics…nah…just don’t get me started on THEM!

Anyway, stories, anecdotes and inside gen on big organsiations. I’d like it all, please.



About janefae

On my way from here to there
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8 Responses to Name campaign

  1. Pingback: A rose by any other name… « Jane Fae's Blog

  2. Jess says:

    A worthwhile cause, and one which I have current experience of.

    New HMRC documentation will probably not help you without photo ID – its the photo ID issue: passport, driving licence or shotgun licence that is the biggest obstacle in my experience.

    Meanwhile, there is more than one way to skin a cat.

    ~ One well known bank will change your records solely on receipt of a doctors letter, no other legalities necessary

    ~ Another more resilient bank has, tentatively, been brought to check by reminding them of their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act.

  3. Romola Des Loups says:

    Oh God yes! After 10 years, my bank still demands that I bring in a decree nisi or deed poll in order for them to call me by the name that is on my birth certificate, my passport and the salary payment that goes into the account every month.

  4. Natacha says:

    The idea of names and IT and blokes is a very important one. I have a particular difficulty in that I have two names, one male and one female, and each has different surnames. I intend to keep both as I am not in the process of transitioning, I am a person with two names because I have two forms of gender expression.

    One for your paper to the Government…


  5. Liz Church says:

    They cannot refuse to change your name or they will be in breach of the Data Protection Act. If you write to them with your new name subscribed and new signature, that’s all you need. If they still don’t then write to them insisting that they change your name and make sure you serve it as an objection to processing pursuant to section 10 of the DPA. There is guidance at the Information Commissioner’s website:

  6. Millie says:

    Reminds me of when I tried to get blizzard to change the name associated with my World of Warcraft account, they said they would if I sent them proof of a change of name! I refused simply due to the faff and the fact that I don’t see why I should entrust a private international organisation with such an important and personal piece of documentation.

    The level of inconsistency is laughable, I’m just glad I never had such problems with my building society.

  7. I am just staring out with the official element of name change after two years using my new name (Dennis). ALready I have had some accept this with no difficulty and others demanding documentation they frankly don’t need. MySpace LiveJournal and LinkedIn allow me to change my name but Facebook won’t at this stage and even removed my capacity to list an alternate name so instead of having both listed I have ended up in a worse position with ONLY the old name listed. They are demanding documentation I don’t have though I have one piece I can try when I’ve found my scanner, it’s not on their list.

    happy to join in

    • Julian says:

      Dennis, I’m surprised Facebook refused to change your name – they changed mine no questions asked. Maybe it’s because I was only changing my first name and not my surname.

      I am about to do the full deed poll route though, just because so many official types (bank, work, especially work) won’t use my new name without it.

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