Gender Identity and Human Rights

It’s something that most of never even give a thought to – our gender. We just are what we are. But that is not the case for those in the trans community.

Readers of this blog will know – especially those who followed my blogging during the passage of the Equality Bill through its parliamentary stages – that one of the protected characteristics in the Bill was ‘gender reassignment’. (A protected characteristic is a ‘strand’ which receives protection from discrimination under the Equality Act such as sexual orientation, disability, race, religion and so on.)

Gender reassignment as a protected characteristic is there to protect one of the smallest but very vulnerable groups.

I lost my argument in the Equality Bill to have this ‘strand’ termed ‘gender identity’ rather than ‘gender assignement’. I was arguing on the basis that there are many trans people who never live in the other gender let alone make the actual change hormonally or surgically and therefore the term reassignment did not cover those who made no change or who were indeterminate in gender identity. In the course of discussion however, the Solicitor General, who led for the then Government, clarified that it was intended to cover the wider group.

Anyway – I was very pleased to be able to send a message of support this week to the International Congress on Gender Identity and Human Rights. It starts today and is being held in Barcelona and runs until Sunday.

It is the first ever International congress to look at the human rights of transgender people.

The conference, originally proposed by the Human Rights Watch organisation, is supported by several governments (Spain, Netherlands, Norway, Catalonia) along with a coalition of Spanish and international LGB &T groups.

My message of support for the Congress said:

“The UK Government is totally committed to creating a society that is fair for everyone. We are committed to tackling prejudice and discrimination against transgender people at home and around the world.

The Government wishes the International Congress on Gender Identity and Human Rights every success when considering how to improve the rights of transgender individuals around the world and in tackling transphobia.

We need concerted government action to tear down barriers and help to build a fairer society for transgender people.”

19 thoughts on “Gender Identity and Human Rights

  1. Awesome – and thanks for your serious work on trans and genderqueer equality, I’m sure if you had not pressed the issue we would never have had any such clarifications from the last government.

  2. “The UK Government is totally committed to creating a society that is fair for everyone. We are committed to tackling prejudice and discrimination against transgender people at home and around the world…”

    Sounds cool, Lynne, but the he UK Government needs to forcibly tackle the abysmal ongoing lack of LGBTQI human rights on its own homo- trans-phobic British Overseas Territories… where gender-variant folk, even UK GRA 2004 certificated ones—whose gender certification is not recognised on BOTs—can be discriminated against with impunity…

  3. Fantastic news Lynn.

    Can the government now do something about the differing treatment and funding criteria that the UK PCT’s apply to gender identity issues please ?

    Some PCT’s insist that people “live in role” before they will even agree to funding, yet many (if not most) gender variant people who suffer from gender dysphoria have no need to change gender lifestyles permanently.

    Similarly some PCT’s only fund the minimum requirements (Assessments, hormones and SRS surgery), yet seem to think that facial, genital and body hair removal, Breast augmentation, Facial feminisation, and breasts reduction (for female to male transsexuals) are not “NEEDS”, they see them as simply cosmetic wishes, yet have no idea how a lack of funding for these needs impacts negatively on a persons welfare and health-care.

    What we need is a uniformity of funding criteria throughout the UK for the gender variant community, so that we are assured that wherever we live in the UK we will be given funding for ALL our needs.

  4. Thank you for your support Lynne. Many of us look to you to give a lead in this area in the new government…and your words, as you no doubt know, are widely reported and discussed in the trans community.

    Inequality of care is a persistent issue, and despite some legal successes, too many PCTs continue to try and do the minimum they can, or less. The backdrop is a climate in which we still fight against a hostile agenda set by most of press and much of the media elsewhere. Transphobia is given a vocabulary by the seemingless endless media ridicule trans people face, much of it humiliating and some of which (our research demonstrates) even inspring violence. And it’s on TV and in the papers, every day. An organisation I’m part of, Trans Media Watch, is trying to combat some of this (www.transmediawatch.org.uk) with some early successes. But we are small and the issue is huge.

  5. Hi Lynne,

    I really appreciate your struggle to include all of us trans people in this. My letters to Vera Baird (who is happily no longer an MP) before the election suggested that the government intended that trans people who are not transsexual, like myself, were to be deliberately excluded from the EB. She gave no reasoning for this.

    My understanding is that the EB protects trans people like myself only to the extent that it covers situations where we may be mistaken for transsexuals. OK so this covers most situations in relation to providers of goods or services etc, and in the street. However there are a number of particularly crucial areas where it would not apply, where we cannot argue that we are being mistaken for transsexuals. Employment is probably the most important of those. I am ‘out’ at work because I work for a university and publish reserach about transgender issues but lots of friends of mine are not so fortunate. I used to be a primary school teacher and would have lost my job in seconds if anyone connected with the school had got the slightest inkling that I was trans. I would have no protection in this situation still, despite having been CRB checked more times than you have had hot dinners.

    It would also not cover the NHS and health services, and it would not permit me, as I am struggling with currently, to publish in two names, my male and my female names.

    If the EB is being altered to include people like me that would be great, but it seems that it will not. Are you going to introduce any legislation to ammend this?

    Natacha Kennedy

  6. Natacha – most extreme feminists tend to be rather hostile to transexuals at the best of times. This might perhaps help to explain Baird’s stance.

    Her defeat at the election was easily the most welcome of any. A truly awful politician.

  7. The trans issue is a very emotive and serious one. I have a couple of people who are on the same boards as myself and have listened to some of the discrimination they have faced. One of the biggest problems in my experience is that people get confused with what trans is and the impact on lives of people within the trans community. What we need is people to be educated in understanding these issues. Many people dismiss these issues instead of embrassing them and learning more.

  8. It seems sadly that ‘gender reassignment’ in the Equality Bill fails to cover all trans and gender variant people. I am someone who identifies as neither male nor female, presents androgyously and doesn’t live in either binary gender role. My body doesn’t fit people’s notions of binary sex either so I am visibly gender variant however I dress and whatever name or pronouns I use. As I was male assigned at birth it seems the only way I could access protections would be to transition and live in female role at work. I would feel very uncomfortable having to assert myself to be a woman when that is a lie! I believe that all trans and gender variant people will only be protected if ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ are protected characteristics, the latter because people who identify as their assigned gender but don’t fit the stereotypes for that gender (eg masculine/butch women and feminine/femme men) shouldn’t face discrimination at work either.

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  10. Hi Lynn,

    Thanks for at least trying, the tory equalties minister theresa may has a record of voting against all LGBT especially T equality laws, seemed a strange appointment to me.

    Much luck with the conference as well, i hope you can get some clearance over rumours of the £60bn savings proposed on NHS procedures, which was in the press this week. We knew the bad times were coming, bbut as ever the poor we will bare the brunt of the pain, still its ok for the bankers who got us into this mess in the first place with their high salaries and huge bonuses, the MP’s who have 3 or 4 consultancies with their millions in the bank and local council and NHS managers on their £200,000 + salaries isn’t it.

    We TS will end up digging ditches on the tory chain gang, facing the daily taunts of tranny and gender bender from the local kids and chavas types.

    @ KimW Yes I hope they would fund FFS and possibly electrolysis to face but the PCTs that I have dealth with say its cosmetic and that it is unneccesary. They don’t seem to see that it would help many who do not pass to get work, in stead they stick rigidly to their stance, they simply do not care whether we get beaten up, assaulted or vebally abused so long as they draw their own high salaries.

  11. Hiya Lynne,

    As many of us know you did your very best, along with Evan to push through Gender Identity as the characteristic. I think you are also aware we ran a campaign on facebook to empower trans people, their friends and allies to send letters lobbying their MPs to discuss and support your amendments, and over 200 MPs were contacted.

    Alas time was against us all and the lack of debating time stopped that, but the very fact that you continue to support us is fantastic and we are most thankful that you do.

    And of course i have the added bonus as you are my local MP as well 🙂

    If you ever have a 2nd2 Tuesday night in the month free and passing through Camden the door to Spectrum London is always open and we’d love to have you pop in for a cuppa and a biccie…

    Kindest Regards

    Denise Anderson
    Spectrum London.

  12. Hi Lynne

    It was good to see such a strong statement of support. Well done!

    Government could now address the near barbaric process of forcing folk to end their marriages when one party seeks gender recognition. At least allow the couple to end their marriage and retain the financial benefits of the marriage rather than be forced into an often inappropriate civil partnership!

    Simple solutions are available; why not explore them?

  13. Messages of support are great, as far as they go.
    In many countries of the world people face rape, torture and murder not just at the hands of the state, but also by their own families and communities.
    As I have previously asked, what is being done by the Home Office to educate staff at the UKBA about the needs of asylum seekers facing sexual/gender discrimination in their own countries?

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