19.The Government Equalities Office (GEO) is responsible across government for equalities strategy and legislation, and takes the lead on transgender equality issues.10 In December 2011 it published Advancing transgender equality: a plan for action,11 following engagement with a significant number of trans organisations. In the Plan, government departments and other government bodies committed to a broad range of detailed actions, with target dates, which aimed to “improve the lives of transgender people and support businesses and public bodies so they have the right tools to support transgender people”.12
20.Stonewall told us that it had welcomed the Plan:
We believe that cross-government working is vital, particularly given that data and expertise on trans issues is limited and that key issues cut across different remits, particularly health, education and justice.13
21.However, witnesses also expressed concern that the plan remained largely unimplemented. Christie Elan-Cane told us that the Plan was, from per14 point of view as a non-gendered person, “all plan and no action, because nothing resulted from it”.15
22.The Minister for Women and Equalities pointed out that a significant number of actions had been taken forward,16 but acknowledged that:
There are some things that have not yet been done […] these are issues that have not been widely discussed in society or in [the House of Commons]. I think it is fair to say that, just because there is an action plan, that does not mean there is change or cultural change or necessarily a dialogue. That is what we would very much like to see happening in this Parliament.17
23.The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)18 emphasised the importance of “a single, strong and clear strategy to lever progress”.19 Stonewall told us that “establishing a transparent mechanism for cross-government working, with a specific ‘trans equality’ remit, would provide a way to focus expertise and to consult with trans communities”.20 We also heard from various quarters the view that the UK government should adopt the overarching principles on trans equality embodied in two international declarations:21
These set out an overarching framework for trans equality in law, based on the principle of a universal right for individuals to determine their own gender identity and to have this respected and recognised.
24.There are also certain areas where consistent, general policy lines could be drawn, for instance in relation to the recording of changes of name and trans identities. As we have already mentioned, there is scope for the Government to develop a coherent overall approach to the emerging issue of the position of non-binary and non-gendered people. One aspect of this might be a general “non-gendered” approach to the official recording of information on individuals (see Chapter Six). Another area where an overarching approach would be possible is the incorporation of trans issues into the regulation, education, training and continuing professional development of groups such as healthcare staff (see Chapter Five), prison staff, teachers and social workers (see Chapter Six).
25.The Minister for Women and Equalities told us that she saw her role as follows:
First, it is very much to come up with the priorities for the Government Equalities Office for this Parliament. I have already said, shortly after the election when I was reappointed, that issues for transgender people would be a part of that […] It is also about holding other Government Departments’ feet to the fire […] [I]t is about making sure that the Government Equalities Office’s expertise and that of those from outside is available to help other Government Departments develop the right policies.24
26.The Minister for Women and Equalities and the Government Equalities Office have a cross-government role in respect of trans equality. The 2011 Advancing Transgender Equality action plan remains largely unimplemented. Within the next six months, the Government must agree a new strategy which it can deliver, with full cross-departmental support. It must also draw up a balance sheet of the previous transgender action plan, confirm those actions which have been completed and agree a new strategy to tackle those issues which remain unaddressed. This must be done within the next six months. It should set out clearly the areas of responsibility and lines of accountability in the public sector regarding trans equality issues. It should also include a wholesale review of issues facing non-binary and non-gendered people.
27.The Government must also make a clear commitment to abide by the Yogyakarta Principles and Resolution 2048 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. This would provide trans equality policy with a clear set of overall guiding principles which are in keeping with current international best practice.
28.In the rest of our report we address a range of specific policy areas relating to trans equality issues.
10 The GEO also leads on issues relating to women and sexual orientation. In relation to its remit in respect of trans equality, in November 2015 the GEO published (in association with Gendered Intelligence) Providing services for transgender customers and The recruitment and retention of transgender staff.
11 HM Government, Advancing transgender equality: a plan for action, December 2011
12 The areas covered by the Plan were: early years; education and social mobility; a fair and flexible labour market; opening up public services and empowering individuals and communities (health and social care, identity and privacy, civil society and the Public Sector Equality Duty); changing culture and attitudes; safety and support; equal civil marriage; and promoting rights internationally.
14 Christie Elan-Cane asked us to use the non-gendered pronoun “per”.
16 The Minister included the Government’s 2012 hate-crime action plan (see Chapter Six) when auditing progress made, arguing that of the 103 points in both plans, only 12 had not been started in any way.
18 The EHRC is a non-departmental public body, established under the Equality Act 2006, with responsibility for promoting and enforcing equality and non-discrimination laws in Great Britain. Its publications include Provision of goods, facilities and services to trans people: Guidance for public authorities in meeting your equality duties and human rights obligations, February 2010.
21 Qq135, 142, 155; National LGB&T Partnership (TRA 077); LGBT Consortium (TRA 083); UNISON (TRA 116); UK Trans Info TRA 138; Centre for Law & Social Justice, University of Leeds, and Intersex UK (TRA 167); Scottish Transgender Alliance (TRA 225)
22 “The Yogyakarta Principles”, accessed 2 December 2015
23 Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, “Discrimination against transgender people in Europe” accessed 2 December 2015
© Parliamentary copyright 2015
Prepared 8 January 2016