- South Africa's First National Bank has grown the favourite of the nation's small transgender minority after it helped out a Burundian female male-born refugee getting a bank account. As a transgender refugee in South Africa, identity problems may often be a big hurdle to overcome.
Any person who wants to open a bank account needs to comply with South Africa's Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA). This means that proof of residence and/or work address needs to be submitted to the bank of choice. Under normal circumstances this should not be too difficult, except for South Africa's large number of refugees.
Things get even more complicated for a refugee whose gender is other than the one stated in the ID card. A Burundian citizen, physically born a man but a woman by all other means, has found that it can be hard to live with a double minority status - a refugee and a transgender identity.
She however found that assistance and compassion was available in her new home. The South African transgender organisation Gender DynamiX took on to help her applying for a refugee status in the world's only country that given constitutional rights to sexual minorities.
Gender DynamiX is now helping her to settle in South Africa and one of many challenges has been the initiation of a bank account for her. "This was easier said than done – at first," the organisation says. "After many failed attempts and much time lost, a bubbly Sales Consultant from First National Bank crossed paths with the CEO of Gender DynamiX, Liesl Theron," the group explains.
On that same day a meeting was set up between Roy Kendall, the Sales Consultant, Liesl Theron and the person from Burundi. The meeting took place in the residence of the Burundian so that the correct address could be verified. The same afternoon Mr Kendall phoned to confirm that the bank account had been opened and validated.
The South African transgender group praises the "compassion, respect and professionalism of Mr Kendall." He had also offered to create a note on her profile screen to remind all bank employees that although this customer's name and passport may temporarily indicate that she is legally male, she is to be addressed as female, Ms Theron says.
"This is one of the many headaches most transgender people are faced with", adds Ms Theron. "They are identified as the gender with which they present until the moment they are asked for identity documentation then bank tellers and security personnel are most often at a loss for what to do next."
"Perhaps the next big challenge for banks will be to determine if a customer's title really needs to be stated on cheques and credit cards. If a valid reason cannot be given, then the omission of titles like Mr, Ms, Mrs, Miss, Mnr, and Mevr, can be a first step in serving the needs of transgender clientele," she suggests.
The Burundian citizen applying for refugee status in South Africa now at least has an account at First National Bank, one of the many small steps needed to permanently stay in South Africa.
According to Gender DynamiX, "she tried to live in other African countries, but there her life was in constant jeopardy and grave peril due to the fact that she is a trangendered person. True to herself she presents herself as female even though she was born male," the group says.
Gender DynamiX is the first - and currently, the only - African based organisation for the transgender community. The group's aim is to "create awareness and visualise transgenderism." Transgenderism is found in all societies of the world, historical and anthropological evidence indicates.
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