Sunday, December 17The Voice of London

Trans Londoners come out against benefits disruptions

We all know how annoying changing your details for your bank, passport, or GP can be. Turns out when you’re trans and you change your legal gender, the government delays your benefits.

Many people are aware of the hurdles transgender people have to jump socially and medically. A poll by YouGov in 2015 even stated that 20% of Londoners would not support their child if they came out as trans.

However, most are unaware of the administrative difficulties trans people can face. Changing the name and gender marker on their passport, bank account and NHS records can be time consuming and expensive.

Transgender people have been in the spotlight for a while, especially since high profile celebrities such as comedian and London Mayoral candidate, Eddie Izzard came out.

Tristan Jones, 19, was forced to illegally sublet when he left an unsupportive family home. At the time he was unemployed and sought Universal Credit to try to better his position.

“At first they rang me asking why I had two names on the system,” he said. “They wanted me to say the name ‘from you were a woman’. I told them I was trans, but didn’t want to say that name. Eventually they said it and I confirmed.”

His problems didn’t end there.

“When I had my first appointment, the woman told me she had worked with trans people before, and she would ‘try her best’ to get my pronouns right, but that she might get ‘confused,’” he continued.

“She went on to tell me about another transmasculine person she had met and how she found it really hard because SHE (misgendering them in front of me) looked like a woman, not a man.

”It was totally unprofessional and disgusting, and unnecessary to discuss with me in the first place.”

Mr Jones’s application was declined and he has since been forced to leave the city for financial reasons. He works as a retail assistant in Southhampton.

Jack Doyle, 25, is a tutor at Oxford University and a convener for the Queer Studies Network there. He is also an advocate for Action for Trans Health, which came in handy when he ran into problems at his bank when they refused to change his name.

“Trans people frequently confound cis people by falling outside of the ‘normal’ administrative procedures, meaning that we’re often dealt with on a case by case basis and are forced to be our own loud advocates.”

He said: “I had to explain to my local bank branch how to change my name, armed with over a hundred pages of legal code and a phone call to the bank’s headquarters.

“I was only successful because I was assertive, disproportionately up on human rights law, and didn’t take no for an answer from several employees,” he added.

The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that no changes are needed to the Department for Work and Pensions’ current protocol, which retains transgender people’s previous name and gender on a Special Customer Record.

Gendered Intelligence, a charity for providing support and information for trans people and their families has this to say about the protocol at the DWP:

“When you change your name with the DWP as a trans person, they will put a special restriction on your account which means only authorised members of staff can access your information.

“This often stops some employees, such as staff at Job Centres, to be able to access your records. This protects your confidentiality but can cause delays when trying to sort out some issues. You may need to allow extra time to sort out any issues as a result.

“Each individual is only allowed to ever receive one replacement National Insurance card in their lifetime. Trans people who change their names therefore are not entitled to a new card if it is lost.”

According to a report by Movement Advancement Project and Center for American Progress, trans people are four times more likely to live in poverty. This makes the delays even more damaging to trans people waiting for benefits either in Universal Credit or Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Despite this, the SCR problems were ruled not to constitute “indirect discrimination”.

Words: Toby Walker | Subbing: Rituja Rao | Image: Miles Fleet

 

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