The Power and Importance of Name and Identity

by the editorial team at Citi |November 1, 2022

A name is a central part of one's identity — it is integral to our sense of individuality and belonging.

Being seen is the beginning of everything. That's why we're giving our transgender and non-binary customers the choice to update their eligible Citi-branded consumer credit and debit cards to match who they are — learn more here.

A person's name is on everything from legal documents and financial accounts to emails and social media profiles. According to a report from the Institute for the Study of Child Development, using your own name is self-representational behavior, similar to recognizing yourself in a mirror.

That's why the recognition of a person's true identity by others is a pivotal step toward real inclusion for transgender people.

Portrait of Sarah Schlindwein in downtown Tucson, Arizona.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Sarah: My name is Sarah. I'm a trans woman. I've been in transition for about five years now.

I started working with Citi in June of 2019. I am working in a work-at-home support role to get new hires set up with their equipment and help them on the path to success when they start their jobs. Next, I'm looking to be a unit manager or a trainer at Citibank.

Outside of work I like to hike. I love woodworking — I make pendants, lamps, pens. I just love being around nature.

How did you come to understand and discover your true identity?

Sarah: I always had this feeling that I should be different. I had a name, yeah, and I had my physical body. That was good, but I was starting to realize that there was just something that was missing. And so, at the age of 12 I found out about the whole trans community, what it is, and really started to explore that. And even so, it took me years to find an identity.

I've found more of myself in the last five years than I have in the last 25. I'm still trying to find that identity, it's evolving and I'm still trying new things. I'm still wearing different things, trying different hairstyles. I'm still trying to find myself.

Portrait of Sarah Schlindwein in Tucson, Arizona.

After I had chosen the name and decided to tell people I was trans, I found this really great identity center that was free to join. It's where I began meeting people who were part of the LGBTQ+ community, including many trans people. That's where I started to present my true self and started outwardly using the name Sarah.

In the beginning, I used my birth name. They ask you for a pronoun, and my first answer was, I don't care. But, as time went on there, as my transition went on, I kind of put on, "OK, I am Sarah. This is me." And then my pronouns were she, her, hers. So that's how I started to mold into that.

A lot of people don't have that environment where they can test out something as important as a name. I luckily had that. And so that allowed me to try it in a safe environment and really get it going.

How does using your chosen name — like on your credit and debit card, for example — or even digitally impact you and make you feel? Is it becoming more commonplace?

Sarah: Having the name on the card is very important to me. It's important to a lot of trans people. This is just one more step I'll be able to do to make myself feel comfortable in this process. It's a good medium to start saying, "Hey, I am this person. Here's my card."

It also helps me feel safe to make sure that I'm not going to put myself in danger or I don't have to worry about getting bad service. There were times where I did have to present my ID. I was treated differently afterwards. It went from a very friendly environment to a get-out-of-my-store environment.

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