Jackie Rowley: My two identities and the threat to national security

If this government gets its way it will bring in ID cards. And then what?
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The Independent Online

I first divested myself of my maiden name in a short-lived marriage a long time ago. I said goodbye to Jackie Rowley, intending to be someone else for the rest of my life. Sadly, the marriage didn't last. As I picked my way out of the divorce, it occurred to me that it didn't make sense to continue to be called after someone I no longer really spoke to; but what to do?

I asked around. At work, I was told that I could, of course, go back to my maiden name but it would be "the talk of the canteen"! I didn't think that was a quite good enough reason for getting stuck with someone else's name - so I reverted to being Jackie Rowley.

It did feel funny at first, but as I started to answer the phone and make appointments and fill in forms, everything fell into place. Like meeting up with an old friend, or slipping on a favourite dress - it was a relief. I was clear who I was, with an identifiable past and (hopefully) my own future. I decided then that I would be a lot more careful before I discarded my identity again.

Some years later, I remarried. My delicious husband was unfazed when I said that I would like to carry on being Jackie Rowley at work and would use his name at home. It meant that my career was my own, while my private life stayed private. I took the precaution of asking a lawyer if there was any problem with this. He said I could call myself whatever I liked, as long as it wasn't a prelude to criminal activities. So I added my married surname to the maiden name on my passport and eased into a world of two identities.

All went well until this June - when my husband and I decided it would be handy to have a joint account for our joint finances. We approached the bank I have used for years and years. We opened the account without much difficulty until a torrent of stuff started pouring through the door. Before my horrified gaze, J Rowley was disappearing; the bank was airbrushing her away.

I rang to ask them to stop this. I talked to a number of officials. They were friendly and pleasant but pretty determined. I couldn't be two people. They had opened a new account in my married name and that was how the bank now knew me. I protested that this was quite separate from my personal account and the fact that the bank was arbitrarily changing my name was an infringement of my personal choices. I hadn't authorised it.

As with all large institutions, no one could really explain why this had had to happen. There were hints about security and terrorism and financial laws and when that didn't convince me, it was suggested that I could count my maiden name as a trading name and open a business account. But I didn't want a trading name - I wanted to keep my personal account in the same name I had always used.

It took ages and I nearly gave up - but I kept remembering how much it had mattered when I got Jackie Rowley back the first time. That identity - its automatic reference to my childhood, my family, my career - is something which is just as much a part of me as my current marriage; but quite distinctly different and separate from that marriage. Why should a bank be the arbiter of when and why that me disappears? And why should I be bamboozled with scary talk about the need to foil terrorists and criminals when I am neither?

Eventually the bank ran out of arguments. They had, in practice, conceded that this was really a matter of administrative convenience - yet another example of how ever larger organisations seek to package us how it best suits them.

So I won and yes, I'll admit, there was that little moment of glee when, as David, your slingshot fells Goliath. But to the female half of the population in particular - I say this.

Further down the line, if this government gets its way, it will bring in an ID card. And then what? I have managed to keep my two names for now, but I can't see how that would continue to be possible if we all have to carry just one ID.

Yet what harm have I done to anybody by maintaining these two identities? And until someone can come up with a proper argument - other than convenience - why I should be denied that right, I shall continue to fight for both my names.

jackierowley@coiledspring.tv

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