Tia’s story is brought to you by NatWest, the proud Founding Partner of the British LGBT Awards.
Four years ago on a sunny evening in July, Tia Ferguson went for a walk with her 15-year-old.
“I knew something hadn’t been right for a long time, that my child wasn’t happy but no matter how much we tried to talk, there was just no opening up,” says Tia, who works in Technology Transformation in Edinburgh.
“But that night at 15 years old, my child decided to tell me that they were not a girl. He was absolutely sure he was a boy and wanted to start living as one from now on.”
Analysing and worrying
“It was a complete shock, but in many ways, it shouldn’t have been. There were plenty of indicators that he was perhaps Trans, and we hadn’t picked up on them. I started to think a lot about what I had done that made it worse for him – the “let’s get our nails done”, the ‘girly Christmas presents’. Should I have picked up on it earlier? My 100% acceptance of Lucas and his decisions was never in doubt. However, it took me a year to stop over analysing the situation, searching for the ‘why’ and questioning myself and worrying about the journey, we just had to move forward.”
We all need support
“Telling people wasn’t easy and I did worry about how we should handle it but once it wasn’t a secret we could really start supporting Lucas. Family and friends were there for us all, although some took longer to adapt to the name change and ‘he’ rather than ‘she’.
“Lucas has had many positive responses. His school were quick to ensure they supported him in the right way making changes in terms of changing/toilet facilities, hosting events and applying the right focus to inclusion and diversity. Lucas chose to head up the Inclusion Working Group in his 6th year and he himself became much more positive and considered about what inclusion means.
“I also joined a group called Transparentees, set up by parents to support other parents/family members with Transgender children and they were a great source of support. I went through a variety of emotions and had lots questions – the group gave me a safe place for exploring it all. I still attend the group on a monthly basis as I know I can help the new parents that come through the doors and sometimes I need that extra support as Lucas continues with his transition.”
Through a customer lens
As a bank we want customers and colleagues to feel that we are an inclusive organisation. Tia says her first encounter with Lucas as an RBS customer was disappointing.
“Lucas’s first experience in our local RBS branch almost three years ago was not good. He had a cheque to pay in, however it was in his new name and the staff unfortunately didn’t know how to deal with the situation sensitively and help change his name on his account.
“I knew this wasn’t the way we wanted to do business with our transgender customers. It was especially frustrating given it was the company I worked for that had handled the situation so poorly with my son.”
On the positive side
Tia, herself a customer of the bank, has turned a negative experience into striving for real change and is heavily involved in the LGBT+ inclusion agenda across Technology. She is passionate about driving real change across the whole bank for colleagues and for all our customers.
Changing your name or paying in a cheque should not be filled with dread. It can be a happy moment if we do the right thing
“Our customers want to be able to interact with our services and feel comfortable doing so,” she says. “Things like changing your name or paying in a cheque for a transgender customer should not be filled with apprehension and dread.”
“I’ve started working with a great group of stakeholders focussed on delivering outcomes that support the bank wide LGBT+ goals as we do need to apply more focus.”
Tia says that since that day in the branch she has been happy to see some changes. “For our customers we have removed the requirement to input your gender through online banking. Colleagues and their family members have access to support for key moments that matter, including preparing for and undergoing gender reassignment and ‘coming out’. We’ve also introduced Dual Identity NIACS cards that are now available for gender fluid colleagues so they can present themselves in either their masculine or feminine gender expression.” We’re also working with our Digital teams to make our customers digital journeys more inclusive and ensuring that the processes will consider LGBT+ requirements moving forward.
This year the bank will participate in 17 Pride events across the UK, ROI, India and Poland and we are founding partners of the UK’s British LGBT Awards.
Lucas started University studying Digital Interaction Design this year and will begin considering his own future goals. For his mum, it’s simple: “My hope for Lucas is that organisations of the future will be truly inclusive and supportive. That’s why I want to make sure that RBS works hard to make sure we’re supporting all our customers and colleagues giving everybody equal access and opportunities – you never know he may want to follow in my footsteps at RBS.”
Nicholas Crapp, Chief Audit Executive and LGBT Sponsor for the bank, adds: “It’s our goal to create a safe and inclusive environment for all our customers and colleagues. I’m very grateful to Tia for sharing her experience and working to help make this a more inclusive bank for colleagues and customers regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We should keep asking ourselves if we are doing enough, as sometimes it is the very practical tasks which can be unintentionally obstructive and can act as unnecessary barriers. We need to continue to evolve through listening, understanding, and responding to our customers and colleagues needs if we are to make this a great place to work and bank for all.”