COMMONS

Law and transgender equality, employment issues examined

17 September 2015

Women and Equalities Committee holds third evidence session for their inquiry into transgender equality.

Witnesses

Tuesday 13 October 2015, Thatcher Room, Portcullis House

Panel one on law and transgender equality

At 10.30am

  • Peter Dunne, Visiting Researcher, New York University Law School
  • Karen Harvey, Chair, a:gender
  • James Morton, Manager, Scottish Transgender Alliance
  • Ashley Reed, initiator of online petition on gender self-definition

Panel two on personal experiences

At 11.30am

  • Zac Snape
  • Sue Pascoe
  • Bethany Black
  • Christie Elan-Cane

Background

Transgender (or "trans") people do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth (based on physical characteristics). Many trans people "transition" into a new ("acquired") gender and this can (but does not have to) involve undergoing medical treatment to bring their body into line with their acquired gender.

Purpose of session

Issues likely to be covered in this evidence session:

Personal experiences

This session hears from a panel of transgender people talking about their personal experiences.

The panel reflects a range of transgender identities and experiences; participants have all submitted written evidence or have approached the Committee and indicated their willingness to appear before it.

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 effectively makes being a trans person a "protected characteristic" on the grounds of which it is illegal to discriminate against someone. The Committee is likely to investigate whether the Act provides sufficient protection (particularly in relation to employment) and how far it protects non-binary people (who do not wholly identify as either male or female).

The Gender Recognition Act 2004

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows trans people to acquire a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) whereby their acquired gender is recognised in law for all purposes, including marriage. Applicants must show that they:

  • have, or have had, gender dysphoria (discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity);
  • have lived fully for the last two years in their acquired gender; and
  • intend to live permanently in their acquired gender.

The Committee is likely to investigate whether the current application process is too expensive, bureaucratic and medicalised. It may look at whether people should be able to define their own gender (including non-binary identity) for the purposes of gender recognition.

Petitions

One of the witnesses before the Committee will be Ashley Reed, who has initiated an online petition advocating such a change in the law. The Ministry of Justice has responded negatively to this petition, stating that it is not aware of "any specific detriment" associated with being non-binary.

More information:

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 provides for same-sex marriages with equal legal status to different-sex marriages. Where a party to a marriage transitions, the trans partner can obtain a GRC and the marriage can be converted to a same-sex or different-sex marriage, as appropriate. However, this requires the consent of the non-trans party to the marriage. Where that consent is withheld, the trans person involved will only be able to obtain an interim GRC (which confers no legal rights regarding gender recognition). A full GRC would only be obtainable following divorce – for which the issuing of an interim GRC constitutes legal grounds.

The Committee may consider whether this "spousal veto" discriminates against trans people, as is widely alleged; and the fact that the equivalent Scottish legislation, the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, does not include such a provision.

The Committee may also look at issues concerning the recording of gender in other official documents and whether the government should stop recording gender information in contexts where it is not relevant. In some countries, such as Australia, it is now possible to obtain a passport with an "X" (unspecified) gender marker.

Further information 

Image: iStockphoto

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