Boston Man’s Story Shows The Discrimination Transgender People Experience in Public Places in Massachusetts
George

Discrimination can be a routine part of life for many transgender people, that rears its ugly head during everyday moments many of us take for granted—like a quick call to the bank to check an account balance.

George Hastie is a 48-year-old transgender man living in Boston. He was born a girl and lived most of his life as female, but identified as male and named himself George as a young child. No one accepted his male identity then and as a result he repressed it until he began living as a man at the age of 44.

Since coming out as a transgender man, he has faced discrimination—but that didn’t prepare him for what happened when he called his bank recently. George was in the middle of providing correct answers to the required security questions when the customer service representative interrupted him, telling him she didn’t believe he was who he said he was, and that he would need to go to a branch in person. She didn’t say why she didn’t believe him and refused to let him finish answering the questions.

“I told her that was unacceptable and that I needed to speak to a manager, which I did.”

George explained that he is a transgender man who frequently has his identity questioned on the phone by banking representatives despite correctly answering security questions. He told the manager it happens because the banking staff assumes his gender is female because of the higher-than-expected pitch of his voice.

“This was very upsetting to me and makes me think this likely happens to many other banking customers. Training is needed so that bank representatives actually use the security questions for their intended purpose—to prevent identity fraud—and not their assessment of someone’s gender based on their voice. This can happen to anyone with a less common voice pitch.”

During the conversation, the manager twice referred to him as “ma’am”, which George corrected. George also told her that she was making his point about the need for staff training on working with transgender clients. The manager did apologize and finally let George finish answering the security questions and get the financial information he needed on his own account.    

“This was very upsetting to me and makes me think this likely happens to many other banking customers,” he says. “Training is needed so that bank representatives actually use the security questions for their intended purpose—to prevent identity fraud—and not their assessment of someone’s gender based on their voice. This can happen to anyone with a less common voice pitch.”

In a forward-thinking place like Boston, it’s hopefully true that most people want to do the right thing. But we can’t rely on good will alone. There will always be some individuals who will discriminate against others not like them, and when that happens, non-discrimination laws are critical to allowing people like George to go about their daily lives and fulfill their basic responsibilities without facing extra hurdles because of who they are.

George has seen other transgender people have their identity questioned at banks, and some of them have had to go through humiliating lengths to prove who they are—far beyond what’s expected of other customers.  

George’s first memory of even seeing another transgender person in public was actually at a bank, in 1987 near Harvard Square. Bank personnel forced a transgender woman to remove her wig, and sit in a windowed room—her humiliation on display for every customer who walked in—while they questioned her.   

And this isn’t the first time George has had his identity questioned by a bank. Luckily, those times the customer service representatives listened to his explanation of being a transgender man and didn’t deny him access to his account. In this case he was initially denied access to his account and insultingly told outright that he was not believable as who he said he was, so he wrote to the bank’s leadership. He hopes that will lead to change.

This time I found the level of disrespect so upsetting, I decided to speak up, and hope to work with bank personnel to ensure they have trainings that enable them to become more familiar with transgender people.”

This time I found the level of disrespect so upsetting, I decided to speak up, and hope to work with bank personnel to ensure they have trainings that enable them to become more familiar with transgender people.” 

“I don’t want to leave this bank as a customer,” he says. He wants the staff better prepared to serve transgender people with the same dignity and respect afforded all customers.

However, without Massachusetts’ law in place that protects him from discrimination in public places, George doesn’t know if he’d have the courage to speak out.  Repealing Massachusetts’ nondiscrimination law could leave people like George more vulnerable to harassment and intimidation, and cause him to avoid or fear doing everyday things as simple as making a call to the bank.

That’s why George is sharing his story of discrimination. He hopes it will help more people understand what’s at stake for transgender people like him if the law that protects him isn’t upheld at the ballot this November.  

To stand with residents like George in support of fairness and equal treatment for all, pledge to vote YES to uphold Massachusetts’ law protecting transgender people from discrimination.


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