Memorandum submitted by Gender Spectrum UK (E 35)

1. Gender Spectrum UK is a group of people whose goals are to work towards better equality and understanding of anyone who identifies as Gender Variant. The group is self-funded through the resources of its members.  Its position on the Bill is informed by discussions with those of the community, including survey research investigating the experiences and views of the Gender Variant people in the United Kingdom, and is focused on the equality strand covered by the Equality Bill: Gender reassignment.

2. A gender variant person is any person who does not identify fully with the gender assigned to them at birth and/or does not conform or is not perceived as conforming to cultural or societal expectations or stereotypical assumptions of behaviour patterns or appearance commonly associated with the gender assigned to them at birth, whether on a permanent basis, or a temporary or intermittent basis.

3. We welcome the Equality Bill and the many improvements it will bring to UK equality law. In particular we welcome the introduction of protection for people by perception, and by association with, people who are covered by the Gender Reassignment strand.

4. We do however have concerns about some provisions of the bill. We think that these undermine providing the same protection from discrimination and harassment for Gender Variant people as for other equality strands. Gender Variance is no more a choice than other strands of diversity and should be entitled to the same levels of protection. While our submission focuses on those concerns, this should not be taken to indicate any lack of support for the Equality Bill.

5. We greatly welcome that the Equality Bill will extend protection from discrimination because of Gender Reassignment to cover school education. However, we are concerned that protection from harassment related to Gender Reassignment has been specifically excluded from the provisions on school education (clause 80). This exclusion means that there will be less protection on grounds of gender reassignment, than for race, gender, disability and age, and implies that harassment on grounds of gender reassignment in these settings is acceptable. We are also concerned about the absence of protection for gender variant children who fall outside of the Bill's definition of Gender Reassignment but who are equally needy of protection under the law. Surely transphobic bullying and harassment of vulnerable young people can never be acceptable.

6. Transphobic harassment in school education can and does lead to truancy and academic failure, low self-esteem and mental health problems, and even self-mutilation and suicide. Mental health issues arising from non-acceptance are likely to be long term, extending far into later life. This has been confirmed in a recent study, available for inspection on-line: It is essential that this exception be removed.

7. We are concerned that the protected characteristic "gender reassignment" is too narrow and fails to protect many people who are gender variant and who face discrimination and harassment. In our view this protected characteristic should be replaced by "gender identity" or a similar fully inclusive term. The most basic equality that other sections of society often take for granted, such as employment protection and access to services, must no longer be withheld from those Gender Variant people who are not undergoing Gender Reassignment.

8. We are concerned that the rules for insurance services will place trans people's privacy at risk (schedule 3, paragraph 21(5)). Some of our members are trans people who are unable to get Gender Recognition Certificates because they are not prepared to annul their long existing marriages to partners they love dearly and who dearly love them. Current statistics from the Gender Recognition Panel indicate that less than half of those entitled to a Gender Recognition Certificate have received one. Such people remain for the time being the legal gender allocated to them at birth. This is the opposite to their lived and presenting gender.

9. Insurance premiums for people living permanently in their transitioned gender should be based on that gender and not their birth assigned gender, whether or not the person has received a Gender Recognition Certificate.

10. We are concerned that the exception allowing single-sex services to discriminate on grounds of gender reassignment is too wide (schedule 3, paragraph 25). Discrimination should not be allowed where a trans person is living permanently in their transitioned gender.

11. We are concerned that the exception allowing employers to discriminate on grounds of gender reassignment if there is an occupational requirement is too wide (schedule 9, paragraph 1), and we believe this represents a step backwards in the protection of transsexual employees from the Sex Discrimination Act. The Equality Bill should be improving people's protection from discrimination and not reducing their equality. Discrimination should not be allowed where a trans person is living permanently in their transitioned gender.


June 2009