genderqueer teen blocked from opening a bank account and applying for university

17-year-old Kaelin Farnish's struggle goes far beyond financial issues.

by Hannah Ongley
02 May 2016, 10:03pm

Much breath has been given to the struggle for trans and gender-nonconforming people just to pee in the bathroom they want to. This crucial fight for what should be a basic human right is literally a matter of life and death. Ted Cruz can rant all he wants about "grown men" being allowed into girls' bathrooms — not what these laws are about, FYI — but anyone with half a brain or an ounce of human decency knows who is really at danger when people are forced into spaces that align with the gender on their birth certificate. 

Less attention is given to struggles that, while not directly life threatening, can be extremely distressing for those who don't fall on one side of the gender binary. Like, say, opening a bank account. Over the weekend a gender-nonconforming teenager from a small Scottish village went public with their struggle to be recognized by a system that only recognizes people who can select one of two gender options from a drop-down online menu. 17-year-old Kaelin Farnish, who identifies as genderqueer and non-binary, has been unable to open a bank account in Britain because of archaic application forms that require customers to be either male or female. Kaelin's father, Keith Farnish, told Buzzfeed News that he and his child are now campaigning to un-screw the British bank system.  

"When you're filling something in and you don't identify as male or female and you only see those two boxes then you don't see yourself there," he said. "You are absent. That must hurt, and that's what makes me angry. There's no reason for it. It doesn't need to be like this."

The bank issue came to their attention when Kaelin was trying to apply to university, and needed to open a bank account in order to pay the deposit for accommodation. After realizing that the online application only accepted male or female customers, they phoned-up the supposed "progressive alternative" Co-operative Bank. "The guy said, 'We'll get back in touch with you within two weeks, because someone else has complained about this as well," they said. "But I got nothing back from them." Even a formal complaint from Kaelin's father yielded no positive response. "I got a letter back from the Co-op and the essence of it was, 'We're going to have to spend money [changing this] so we're not going to.'" They have now had the same problem at nine different banks. The Royal Bank of Scotland has allowed Kaelin to apply without selecting a gender, but even then they won't allow the gender-neutral prefix Mx as a title.

"It's not life and death," Kaelin's father said. "But, actually, embracing your identity and being comfortable in that identity? In many cases it is." Lucky for Kaelin, their father is a legend. Hopefully the backlash convinces the banks at fault to update their code of ethics — and their crappy websites — for what appears to be the first time since the Dark Ages. 


Text Hannah Ongley

bank account
kaelin farnish