True Name puts correct trans and non-binary names in the spotlight

This content was created by the Xtra Branded Content Team alongside MasterCardseparate from writing Xtra.

Beyond being a family connection and the words on our documents, our names speak of who we are – they are immediate expressions of our identities, where we come from and, often, who we choose to be. For trans and non-binary people, the issue of a name is increasingly greater, since it speaks of a whole identity transformation. However, many people face obstacles in getting this change recognized, both officially and unofficially.

Deadnaming, calling someone by the name they no longer use, goes deeper than the skin and brings with it a painful history fraught with depression and anxiety. Beyond the accidental clerical error or an acquaintance using the wrong name, Canadian institutions often maintain outdated naming rules, such as requiring a legal name change for the record and ID to a student include the chosen denomination. Adding to personal pressure, only permanent residents and protected persons can legally change their name in Canada, meaning many are stuck living with their old selves all over their IDs and papers.

While it may seem slow, small nudges in the right direction over the past few years have seen some progress in Canadian inclusiveness legislation: gender identity and expression were protected by Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code in 2017, while the 2021 census marked the first time that Statistics Canada made room for transgender and non-binary options, becoming the first country to provide data on these groups. However, we still have a long way to go, a fact made evident by times like when many voters received their 2021 voter cards from Elections Canada bearing their dead name despite re-registering.

Credit: Mastercard

According to a recent Mastercard study, 90% of Canadians in the transgender community have had to use ID whose name or gender does not match their presentation. And from this experience, an urgent need for change also emerged: almost half of the respondents said they had been verbally harassed, felt anxiety related to this situation or extreme embarrassment and frustration related to the misrepresentation of their sex.

Feelings like these are why Mastercard created the Real name feature, which allows trans and non-binary people to display the name of their choice on their credit cards. After a US launch in 2019, the feature became available in Canada earlier this year, with BMO becoming the first issuer to implement it last spring.

Companies like Mastercard can only learn more about these needs by engaging directly with affected communities when building features like True Name. “One of the things we’ve learned from talking to community members who work with us and through research is that there’s so much in the transgender and non-binary community [for whom] paying with a card can be an absolute daily challenge, when the name on their card doesn’t match their true identity and who they are,” says Shawna Miller, vice president of marketing and communications for Mastercard in Canada.

The key to this feature is that it doesn’t require a legal name change, users can come as is and have it appear on their card. Functionality goes beyond the name embossed in the plastic, to the broader customer account. Avoiding friction and future pain points that these people may face can make all the difference in someone’s life. “Having my ID reflect who I am means security, authenticity and validation. In the past, I had to use cards with my old identity to enter certain places. I lived in constant fear that security would look at my old ID and then look at the woman in front of them. […] The fact that everything reflects who I am has brought so much peace and comfort to my life,” says the lifestyle influencer and CEO of Kanopy Kitchen, Maya Henry.

Credit: Mastercard

Once the development of the True Name campaign was underway in Canada, Mastercard called on Na Forest Lim, artist and member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community as campaign manager. Spots led by Na, including influencers who can talk and share their own experience. Lim wanted to present authentic stories of Canadians who have gone through difficult times and felt the need for this first-hand service. “It’s hard to explain the sheer euphoria that accompanies seeing your chosen name displayed on a card that represents you. Knowing that your identity is no longer up for debate with people who don’t don’t even know is something that so many people take for granted, but can change the lives of others so significantly,” says the influencer. Asher Di Giuseppehighlighting the tangible impact that this initiative has had and will continue to have.

For Mastercard, True Name was something they felt the need to create, given the opportunity inherent in their global position. Miller emphasizes that with having a voice at the table comes the responsibility to use it, though she stresses that this initiative is just the beginning. “It’s the first brick in the road, but we still have a long way to go, and we’re doing it in partnership with the people we’ve met along the way,” she says.

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