Being called by your preferred name is something most of us take for granted each day. And it might not seem like a big deal to you. Maybe your credit card uses Robert even though you have always gone by your middle name. Maybe you prefer Bob but people call you Robert. You correct them, and go on with your day.
For the most part, your identification and social contacts call you by your name, not by someone else’s name, and not by a woman’s name. It would get annoying if they all got it wrong, and after awhile, if everyone insisted on calling you Barbara even though your name is Robert—it would start to get under your skin.
For transgender women, being called by the name they were given at birth that corresponds with their assigned gender—not their true gender—can be quite traumatic. If Barbara is constantly called Robert, it can force her to relive the gender dysphoria she suffered.
It’s symbolic of transformation for a transgender woman to choose her real name, and just as important as using the right pronouns, if not more important, because a name is specific to an individual identity.
Transgender people call their birth names “dead names” because the false identity they were assigned has been discarded. To use the incorrect old name is called “deadnaming” because it is perceived as an act of disrespect or even an act of violence. While someone might make a mistake, for example, on an attendance call in a doctor’s office and ask for “Robert,” in other situations a person will refuse to call her Barbara out of ignorance or outright bigotry.
To look at the name “Robert” every time you pay for your groceries or gasoline, to share that name on your cards with people at your bank or supermarket, can feel like a ghost of someone else is being dragged everywhere with you. Transgender people want to be able to get on with their day and with their lives too, not constantly be reminded of their old life.
So it’s a small thing but a huge thing—to recognize yourself on your Mastercard. To not be deadnamed every time you buy catfood.
“We are allies of the LGBT+ community, which means if we see a need or if this community is not being served in the most inclusive way, we want to be a force for change to help address and alleviate unnecessary pain points,” Randall Tucker, chief diversity and inclusion officer for Mastercard, recently told The Independent. “This translates not only for our Mastercard employee community but for our cardholders and the communities in which we operate more broadly. Our vision is that every card should be for everyone.”
Not only does this True Name Mastercard initiative prevent personal pain with a simple and easy act of respect, by using a person’s true name, it prevents misunderstandings, complications, and trauma at the point of checkout. It protects both the cardholder AND the cashier. After all, any worker handling money has to do their job against fraud, and if someone who clearly resembles Barbara hands you a card that claims to be Robert Jones, that employee is now thrust into a conundrum.
Making assumptions about someone being transgender is risky and not necessarily evident. But asking questions to find out if the card is legitimate puts both cashier and Barbara in an uncomfortable position. A business might deny her service because the card does not match the presentation, or have to ask personal questions. Buying cigarettes or flowers turns into a nightmare for the business, the cashier, and the customer.
This is easily alleviated by using Barbara’s True Name on her card. Kudos to Mastercard for such a common sense solution.