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Trans woman in battle with bank who says she ‘sounds like a man’

Emma Powys Maurice August 1, 2019
Ellen Westerleigh

Ellen Westerleigh has faced ongoing problems with her bank (Joseph Raynor/ Nottingham Post)

A transgender woman was blocked from making transactions with her bank, HSBC, because staff said she “sounds like a man” on the phone.

Ellen Westerleigh correctly answered all security questions and had informed HSBC on multiple occasions that she now identifies as a woman.

Despite this, staff did not believe her and she was told she would be unable to access her account unless she visited a branch in person to prove her identity.

Westerleigh was also sent a new bank card with ‘Mr’ rather than ‘Miss.’ The 22-year-old from Nottingham said she now feels “uncomfortable” speaking to her bank.

“I opened the account in October last year. I had to order a new card and they sent a card that said ‘Mr’ rather than ‘Miss.’ They said it was an error,” she told NottinghamshireLive.

“Every time I ring up to speak about my account they say I ‘don’t sound like a woman.’ I have to prove who I am and I shouldn’t be having to do that.

HSBC
HSBC is a prominent supporter of Pride in the UK (HSBC/Facebook)

“I know I sound like a man but that is not the point. I do feel uncomfortable ringing up my bank. It has happened three or four times and it is ridiculous.

“It has got to a point where I have to go into my branch and show my ID, and I do not live near my branch. The nearest is the city centre.”

HSBC “do not take the trans community seriously”

HSBC says diversity and inclusivity are central to its values. The bank is a prominent supporter of the LGBT+ community and was the main sponsor of Pride in Birmingham.

In 2017 they introduced 10 gender-neutral pronouns to help trans and non-binary customers access financial services more easily.

HSBC leading Birmingham’s Pride parade (Image: Birmingham Pride)

But Westerleigh feels her own experience does not reflect this. “When I speak to them on the phone it ruins their image,” she said. “It gets to the point where I have told them several times ‘I am transgender.’

“It is in my file. I should not have to keep saying it.

“They do not take the trans community seriously. They just think we are not that gender.”

HSBC apologises for “disappointing” service from its staff

HSBC told NottinghamshireLive the customer care team is currently reviewing Westerleigh’s complaint and have recently made changes to their systems and training to support transgender customers.

A spokesman said: “We are very sorry for the disappointing level of service experienced by Miss Westerleigh, and are committed to learning from this to help ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“We are a proud and active supporter of customers and colleagues across the broad spectrum of diversity of sexuality and gender identity.

“We want everyone to be able to access simple and smart banking solutions that work for them, and we will continue working with our LGBT+ colleagues and customers to ensure we’re getting it right.”

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