20/01/2021 | Writer: Koray Arkadaş

Asking our clients about their preferred name can both reduce the likelihood of possible harm and have a positive effect on the trust relationship we are trying to establish.

I’m working in the field of mental health, why should I ask my clients about their preferred name? Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+

Illustration: Aslı Alpar

As mental health professionals, we must consider the benefit of our clients in the processes we carry out with them and, more importantly, that our clients are not harmed in our meetings. In our first meeting, asking our clients about their preferred name can both reduce our likelihood of possible harm and have a positive effect on the trust relationship we are trying to establish. Because people may not use the names written in their identity documents and may use a different name than that. The reasons for this may be:

In many societies, babies are usually assigned a categorized "girl name" if born with a vagina and a categorized "male name" if born with a penis. Although unisex names are also given occasionally, this is the general situation. Considering that individuals may have dissatisfaction with their assigned gender at birth, it should be taken into account that people may also be dissatisfied with the identity names assigned in line with their assigned gender at birth or that intersex people may not want to use the names assigned in line with gender categorization.

Apart from gender, gender expression and characteristics, reasons such as religion, sect, language, race, political thought, philosophical belief may also be effective in the dissatisfaction with the identity name. In addition, people may not like their identity name without any reason.

When people hear their identity names, they can recall memories of violence and may be traumatized. People may have been subjected to peer bullying at school during their childhood years and may be traumatized again upon hearing their identity names. Also, some names can be ridiculed in society. Even if people are not directly ridiculed for their identity names, they may be disturbed indirectly by the sarcasms in society.

The therapeutic relationship and confidentiality principle are of great importance for mental health professionals to establish an effective communication and trust relationship with their clients. No matter how much effort is put into this, especially in the first interviews, clients may think that the professionals will disclose the shared information together with their identity information. Clients may want to use a name that they normally never use until they think the trust relationship is fully established or throughout the whole process. Mental health professionals may need identification names for the benefit of their clients. In this case, it should be clearly explained to the clients why the identity name is needed and which proceedings can be hampered without the information regarding their identity names.

The number of people changing their identity name and/or surname is increasing. With the amendment made in the Population Services Law No.5490 on 19.10.2017, people became able to change their names and surnames without filing a lawsuit in the presence of the conditions specified in the article by submitting their applications to the population directorates. With the "Law on the Amendment of Certain Laws and on Decree Law No. 375" published in the Official Gazette on December 24, 2019, business and transactions related to the name and surname change are declared to be carried out by provincial and district administrative boards for 3 years without seeking a court decision.

Applications for name/surname change can be submitted to the Population Directorate, without filing a lawsuit. If this application is rejected, individuals can file a lawsuit to the Civil Courts in their city of residence. The case is heard and a verdict is issued with the officer appointed by the Population Directorate.

People may not have the motivation to change their identity names, even they want to. Mental health professionals can support their clients regarding this motivation.

*The articles published in KaosGL.org Rainbow Forum are the responsibility of the authors. The publication of these articles on KaosGL.org does not imply that the views expressed therein reflect the views of KaosGL.org.

Translation: Yiğit E. Korkmaz

Tags: human rights, health