Senator calls on more companies to stop “deadnaming” transgender users with outdated identification requirements after PayPal, Discover say they will explore, implement changes

Washington (June 29, 2022) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today released responses from Facebook, PayPal, Discover, Visa, and Instacart to his March inquiry into the companies’ name-change policies that contributed to deadnaming, or the practice of referring to transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming users’ birth or legal name that they no longer use. Name-change policies that require legal documentation of a legal name change force these users to endure sometimes lengthy and expensive processes to avoid being deadnamed with every financial purchase or login. The companies’ responses range from strong commitments from PayPal and Discover, which include exploring and implementing more accessible name-change policies, to the failure of Facebook and Instacart to acknowledge that their identification policies may lead to ‘deadnaming’ in the first place.

“With the rights and wellbeing of transgender Americans under threat every day, these companies have an obligation to protect their users’ personal identity,” said Senator Markey. “Constant and persistent deadnaming is an avoidable and addressable problem. I continue to urge platforms that require government-issued identification for their user verification to show simple decency to the trans, gender nonconforming and nonbinary community and fix this problem—not only for new users, but for existing users that transition and identify by their preferred name.” 

In March, on International Transgender Day of Visibility, Senator Markey and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) sent letters to Facebook, PayPal, Discover, Visa, and Instacart, querying them about, and asking them to alter, restrictive public-facing name change policies. The companies provided responses to the concerns expressed by the lawmakers and their requests for policy changes, including:

  • Discover explained that, currently, customers can choose their preferred name for their debit account without legal documentation when speaking with customer service representatives, but due to “legal and regulatory requirements, as well as to protect consumers from fraud,” Discover customers must continue in some cases to provide government-issued identification with their deadname. However, Discover is now exploring ways to expand preferred name use across its channels and products, including on the payment card itself – a solution proposed by Senator Markey.
  • PayPal said that it would begin conducting research to find solutions to the government identification requirement in order to foster a more inclusive environment for the trans community. While some of the name expression policies are administered by federal frameworks or banking regulations outside of PayPal’s control, it is exploring how to expand its name change process with consideration of the transgender community’s experiences.
  • Visa shared its internal company policies that allow for preferred names on their cards without matching legal documentation, as well as Visa’s message to its financial institution clients outlining this policy. Unfortunately, in practice, these polices are not adequately implemented, because Visa lacks a direct relationship with cardholders and its clients remain subject to legal documentation and identity verification requirements set by individual banking institutions.
  • Facebook articulated its commitment to the company’s “Authentic Self” policy – under which users have the ability to change their names to their preferred name. In spite of this claim, as Senator Markey and Congresswoman Jayapal explained in their March letter to the company, transgender users still experience being “deadnamed” or “outed” on the platform. In response, Facebook acknowledged “limited circumstances where a user is asked to provide an ID” and that it “set a higher bar for authenticity” for its products, including Facebook Dating, Marketplace, and Political Ads. Although Facebook recognized that “changing your name can be a challenging process for transgender, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, and non-binary people,” it failed to acknowledge that the platform contributes to deadnaming by requiring users to provide legal documentation in order to conduct business in their preferred name. In addition to failing to acknowledge the scope of deadnaming on its platform, Facebook also declined to outline any steps it would take to end the harmful practice.
  • Instacart responded that its shoppers can reach out to the company’s support team in order to complete a name change, and that users “do not require shoppers to provide legal documentation of their name change.” However, Instacart users have reported that the support team does request legal documentation as part of the identity verification process, which fails to acknowledge the barriers to accessing this documentation. 

The full responses from Facebook, PayPal, Discover, Visa, and Instacart can be found HERE.