Trans equality and the transgender action plan

On 14 March 2011 the Government launched Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality: Moving Forward, which sets out the actions Government is taking to tackle lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inequality.

But trans issues are often quite distinct and we recognise the need for some of those issues to be addressed separately.

To make sure we really deliver for the trans community, we need to know how you think we should be progressing the agenda.  The first E-Bulletin can be found here.

The bulletin includes an online survey asking for your views and ideas. We will use the findings of this first survey to shape the Government policy in trans equality and the transgender equality action plan. We would be grateful if you could complete the survey by 6 May 2011.

To help us make sure we are reaching the widest range of people, please forward this message and bulletin to your friends and colleagues; post it on your blogs and discussion forums; and raise it in your community groups.

0 thoughts on “Trans equality and the transgender action plan

  1. Lynne, I have much respect for you, as you have played a very important role over the years as an LGBT activist, and so I imagine you support the human rights act?

    You will be aware that the government have added the Equalities Act to the their Red Tape Challenge, and are considering scrapping it!

    Can you assure me, and others here, that you do NOT support the scrapping or watering down of the Equality Act 2010?

  2. Hi Lynne

    Well done on getting the transgender action plan underway!

    Your participation in the Channel 4 Trans Media Watch event sent a very positive message. Alas, so-called comedy programmes broadcast by the BBC with disgusting portrayals of apparently transgender folk, as air hostesses, has a very negative impact on the general perception of trans folk. Many of the symptoms of the problems that trans folk face would disappear if the public could accept us as part of the normal spectrum. Whilst such degrading portrayals persist, progress cannot be made. The BBC would no longer make programmes that ridicule folk with an African heritage so why can in be OK to pick on trans?

    Can anything be done here?

    A further concern is the lack of awareness by politicians on what trans is. I was amazed that, in my interactions with some senior politicians and government officials, I had to explain the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. I applaud GEO now using the expression LGB&T to emphasise that T is different. However, this will not necessarily result in politicians, who may be asked to amend the law to resolve some of the gross unfairness imposed on trans folk and their families, being sufficiently informed to do the right thing.

    Some form of reception with politicians, with say 45min presentation on what trans is, allowing our law makers to actually meet with and talk to trans folk, may be a way forward.

    Anyway – keep up the good work!

  3. Hi Lynne,
    Your approach is very encouraging and shows you are willing to listen to develop a real understanding of how it is for gender variant people. As you know, more often than not we are confused with other, quite separate groups in society, and particularly with the Gay community. While we sympathise with those groups our needs are completely distinct from theirs. Some parts of the media deliberately reinforce these misconceptions and encourage ridicule and even violence towards us, as they did in former times in their treatement of gay people and ethnic minorities.
    We definitely need blanket protection against discrimination for Gender Expression; many people do not fit entirely into a single, invariable, gender identity, but no employment protection is available for varying gender expression. The current single Equality Act, with its simplistic clear-cut distinctions between “Cross Dressers”, “Transvestites” and “Transsexuals” is not only based on popular misconceptions, but is demeaning to those who either will not, or have not yet, “officially” reassigned their gender.
    Anyway, thank you for all your good work so far: the most thoughtful I have yet seen from an incumbent administration.

  4. Janella – from a post a while back:

    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.

    So – the above was during the passage of the Bill and now I am consulting on the Trans Action Plan – and I think it would be very helpful if everyone fed their points into that consultation. And if something isn’t covered or asked – then add it in.

    I hope to be able to publish the plan before the end of the year.

  5. Julie – on the Equality Act being on the Red Tape Challenge website – so are things like the Climate Change Act and other things.

    As a Liberal I can’t really object to asking the question as to what people feel about these acts – but I sincerely hope that the comments in response to the questions on the Equality Act demonstrate what support this important piece of legislation has out there!

  6. Hi Lynne,
    Thank you for replying to my post. I for one have fed my input into the survey. This is so encouraging!
    Yes to Gender Identity protection.
    The point on Gender Expression, included together with Gender Identity in Canadian Bill C-389, is that coverage would then explicitly include freedom to vary gender presentation, for example at work, for an individual, while adhering to gender-neutral dress code.This recognises that people change as they explore who they are and do not necessarily remain in one place their whole lives.
    The logic is straightforward: Men and women can do jobs equally well and discrimination on the basis of gender is illegal. Since gender is irrelevant to employment, it follows that the gender identity or presentation of an employee is also irrelevant, and how the employee chooses to present, within a gender-neutral set of rules, has no bearing on their job. Some employers fear that customers would not like that, but exactly the same excuse was made by advertisers who avoided showing ethnic minority actors in the 1960s. It was not a valid point of view then and it isn’t now.
    How would one address an employee who chose to vary their gender presentation? By whatever name the employee requested. Many would probably choose a gender-neutral name as have some of my friends.

  7. Hi Lynne,

    As someone who may soon reveal their trans. status at work, but has not declared an intention to reassign their gender right now, I’m interested in your previous post, where you said,
    “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.”

    This being the case, could one rely on the Single Equality Act as it stands prohibiting discrimination against any transgender person who does not declare a firm intention to reassign their gender?

    The Act as it stands certainly does not make this clear.

  8. Hi from New Zealand

    I was so excited to come across your website while searching for an answer to my issue, excited because I knew of no Politician interested enough in us to stand up and be counted. Thanks Lynne.
    My problem/Issue is that of the transgender marriage status.
    I am a transwoman 70 years old and married for 30 years to the most supportive woman anyone could ask for.
    I finally completed my transition 3 years ago with full gender reassignment.
    I am now the happiest I have ever been in my life, except for the fact that even in New Zealand I am forced to divorce my wife if I am ever to rid myself of that male birth certificate.
    Is it fair to do this to the one person who has given her unconditional love by her support of who I am.
    Neither of us wants this, there are few of us anyway who manage to retain there partners love and support, many partners cant wait to get divorced so I guess I am one of the lucky few. But then even with love and support there are still issues.
    Surely this is against mine and also my partners human rights.
    Have those who make these decisions realise the problems they create, note that even in death my dependants will be forced to recognise my gender change on the death certificate.
    Why? In New Zealand (and possibly UK) the law still considers me male, as that is on my birth certificate.

    My need is simple, I want a birth certificate showing my gender as female without having to destroy the family relationships we have.
    We both had been previously married, currently we have a family of seven children, 23 grand children and 3 great grandchildren.
    My transition is difficult enough for them to come to terms with, let alone see me divorce their mother, grandmother and great grandmother.
    All because of that bit of paper that made a decision at the time, of what they saw (male) and not who I was (female).
    I was born in the UK but now live in New Zealand.
    I recently obtained a British passport showing my gender as female, so we are making progress but there is more to achieve, and this issue is one of them.
    I want all to realise that for British transgender nationals in other countries, the changes you achieve in the UK make it easier for the rest of us.

    I also note that Austria have recognised this issue. Vienna, 2 Feb 2011 – The Administrative Supreme Court of Austria spoke out against forced outing of transsexuals by marriage certificates. See:-

    NB. If this comment is too long please feel free to edit it.

  9. Hi Diane

    The human rights issue has been examined in the EU Court when Ms Parry (UK) tested whether forced divorce was a violation of her rights to family life.

    The ruling was that it was proportional (at that time due) to the small numbers involved and the low cost of switching to a civil partnership (apparently a very similar legal arrangement). I have been trying to find out the source of the data but without success. However, the concept that human rights only apply if the group impacted is significant in numbers is fundamentally wrong.

    The GRA has not been a success as (based on HMRC data) only a third of those that appear eligible have applied and, of course, many on the non applicants I guess must be married. I am in the same position as you (but have been married 8 years longer!).

    I am pleased that you are now happy and I hope that NZ does the honourable thing and end the near-barbaric requirement for divorce before being legally recognised for who you are.

  10. Hi Paula
    Thanks for your comments on my issue, I did some searching and found what I believe is the source you mentioned, see below.

    My issue and it seems yours also is that we continue to lobby the UK government for changes, hopefully Lynne will take up this challenge on our behalf!

    My other comment is this:-
    If there are so few who fall into this category, then what’s the problem.

    As you can imagine if there are so few cases in the UK pop 60 million,
    then in NZ pop 4.2 million the number has to be very small.

    This is why it’s so important that collectively we push for changes.
    No one seems particularly interested in NZ, also NZ is not known as “God’s own country” for nothing. I still cannot get my NZ passport to show female without making an application to the court for a consent, (effective for the passport only).
    The NZ government is slow to act in this area but changes made in the UK & the EU make it slightly easier to obtain our rights here.

    Personally I do not see the civil union act as desirable in our case, from what I have read there are many flaws in this system for those already married.
    The basic problem relates to the individuals past relationship to spouse and extended family and the fact that one does not know what gremlins appear after the fact when its to late to change it.
    However I do believe for those about to be joined together it is a step in the right direction.
    The whole process and implications has not been fully thought through as is so often the case. It simply is not good enough for governments to say we have this alternative as it is not an answer to our issue. We are married we are committed to each other, ok one of us changed our gender and want to put that right, is that too much to ask for.

  11. Hi Diane

    Yes, there are serious flaws in the concept that converting to civil unions in addition to the unnecessary breakup of legal marriages to achieve the same situation (false for some folk in particular pension schemes). Additionally, if one has complex financial arrangements (especially pensions and if post retirement), the cost /complexity of ending a marriage is high and I am looking for ways of having the lie of ‘covert to a civil partnership on the same day’ re-examined.

    Lynne is well aware of the issue of the trans marriage problem and my understanding that she is ‘on-side’. Unfortunately, this issue has not been identified (as yet) as a priority by the Government Equality Office (GEO) who is producing the transgender action plan being informed by its on-line survey that shows health issues are receiving the most ‘hits’. However, speaking as one of the 10,000 plus who have already transitioned, health is not the major concern it was in the days before my reassignment.

    The GEO commenced a consultation process to inform the plan back in March 2010 and the result of this can be seen at

    As you will see, the trans marriage issue is included and a LOT more. The issue is that priorities vary according to where you are in your transition and GEO has yet to indicate that this is a principle that it has grasped.

    During the GR Bill, my understanding was that married trans folk were to be allowed to remain married and obtain a GRC but a ‘high level intervention’, based on religious opinion, (apparently) reversed this.

    Many married trans folk consider that the only way forward here will be through the Courts as there is embedded transphobia in the UK system that will be a problem for Lynne to overcome but I am sure she is doing her best.

    Agreed, the right to not have your family broken up is not unreasonable.

    ps my family nearly emigrated to NZ in 1958 and there are many here who wish I had!

  12. Hi Paula

    Thanks again for your comments, I am becoming more fired up on this issue.
    The link to GIRES “Statement of need” requires more reading for me but I now see some light at the end of the tunnel.
    Being a Secondary school teacher for the past 15 years before I retired made me very interested in the education section.
    This is definitely where we need to start our plan of understanding.

    Personally I had not been brave enough during my time of teaching, and decades of secrecy to make the necessary changes, believing the social implications would be too much to handle (anyone who teaches teenagers will know what I mean).
    How wrong I was, it was about one year after my surgery that I took up courage and visited my school.
    At first no one recognised me, after all I was just a male teacher who got on well with the staff and students, so to turn up in a dress and female attire is not so surprising. Twelve years in the same department my two male colleagues had no idea who I was.

    The reception I had was nothing short of magical!
    Once recognition was made there were hugs all round and many many questions. I felt so at home, of Who I am.
    So many years wasted, ok it may have been difficult but the problem was definitely me.

    I tell this story in order that others reading this blog understand this.

    As a teacher it makes me more determined that we support our students and ourselves become more open about who we are.

    I once attended a funeral of a lovely student who had committed suicide in his last year, I will never know his reasons (we had strict privacy policies) but I have this feeling his trauma may have been gender related. Knowing who I really was (my story) may have changed things. Who knows!

    If you are a teacher reading this and are not sure where you are in this life, make an effort to normalise this situation that many find ourselves in, after all is that now teaching is about.

    Let it be known who we are and what we want for ourselves, but more importantly how we can make our world more understanding for others of our existence. We are normal too.

  13. Hi Diane

    Thank you for sharing the wonderful account of the reaction of your former colleagues to your transition!

    Alas I was shunned by mine!

    I was attached to a Ministry and ran a part of an international organisation as one of my tasks, on behalf of UK and my former UK colleagues now consider and I quote ‘I do and have never existed’. I had been on a consultancy contract (for 15 years) and it was not renewed- no protection). However, my former international colleagues have been great and I see them in London, annually, at conferences when they do the hugs/take me out for dinner etc and still consider me ‘the boss’. I found out after I transitioned (and I really did think that I had my whole gender thing hidden) that my nickname was ‘she who must be obeyed’!

    The point is that we have two difficulties; dealing with the complex issue itself (living in ‘hell’, deciding to take action and the transition process itself) and then trying to deal with the reaction of others (which is totally outside of one’s control and unpredictable). A specialist once told me that transition is about swapping one set of problems for another that cannot be quantified in advance. My family (eventually) has become OK with my transition with the exception of my mother who refuses to see me (her religion, apparently).

    You were lucky but many are not. We can generally stay in a job when we transition here now but just try getting one having recently transitioned – protection laws do not work and that brings me to education and my take on this vital topic in the Statement of Need. As you say, we are part of the normal spectrum. We might not be average but we are just as normal as the short, tall, gay, red heads etc. etc. Nature loves variation but alas society does not!

    Thus, if we could educate society that trans is part of normal, many of our problems would go and far more youngsters would come forward early in life and get sorted out. No more wasted lives as you say.

    There are few if any trans role models – trans people really just want to ‘disappear’. I go to lots of meetings/training sessions with my label ‘trans’ and I hate it but it is necessary as the more folk that interact with trans people, the more will realise that we are not freaks but just like everybody else. In my ‘other’ life, I am just an ordinary (but slightly tall!) retired woman, who rides the local bus using my bus pass, with other retired folk.

    So, if we start educating now, in 20 years or so we may be were ‘gay’ is now. Alas, education has yet to be declared as a priority for the government’s transgender action plan every action of which has to be mapped to an effect – a direct improvement in the lives of trans folk.

    It seems that many of our problems are due to the ignorance of others most especially politicians but, if we dealt with the problem (ignorance), many of the symptoms of the problem (prejudice) would disappear.

    GIRES – Gender Identity Research and Education Society has coordinated that Statement of Need on behalf of the trans community here in the UK and the statement represents a very broad spectrum of opinion. Indeed, it is a record of the appalling treatment of a minority group in what is supposed to be an advanced nation. We should be setting an example to other nations in what equality really means.

    I do not consider that I wasted my life (transitioned around 2006). I achieved what I did in my career because I had an advantage – I was trans and that gave me skills that others lacked. Think of yourself as a more evolved human being and pity those who are only cis-gendered!!

  14. Hi Everyone,

    This fantastic debate – there is such a lot of great work and research taking place in the UK at the moment.

    I’m a on the transgender spectrum – but by no means a transexual – and I think that GIRES has tough job trying to bring together the “Statement of Need”. I want my needs meet, but they are by no means as important as people further along the spectrum than myself.

    Being on the transgender spectrum is a journey – often a journey that is not completed because of fear – rejection, ridicule or simply personal circumstances. But, these are issues of education and understanding – not the law and legislation. My wife is a teacher and we often discuss how education at an earlier age around transgender, race, sexuality etc. is key to removing prejudice and increasing the understand of diversity.

    Diane I really feel for your situation – it is crazy – the law is created for the people (just not us). Yes, we have come along way in the UK – but still someway to go and I hope we can show the rest of the world how to get there and create a more just and inclusive nation and community.

    I’m also proud to be a Trustee of Sparkle, The National Transgender Celebration that takes place in the Manchester in the few weeks – apart from the fun of the weekend celebrations of who we are, there are also workshops and discussions, including the chance to contribute to the shape the future UK transgender policies.


  15. Hi Beckie

    Of course, the problem that Diane has is shared by married trans people in the UK who are forced to choose between getting their legal identity sorted and divorcing their spouses.

    My information is that GEO will not now be present at Sparkle. Consequently, I am not sure how we will be able to shape government policy for transgender folk at the session planned for the Saturday.

    The community was under the impression at the end of last year that it would shape government work on transgender issues whereas the reality is that it has only been able to define the needs (just the 99 issues so far) as indicated in the GIRES coordinated document. My further information is that it is not government policy to consult on the content of the transgender action plan.

    At the LGBT Consortium-sponsored Statement of Need workshop held in London in March, we were advised that we would be told by GEO those actions that did not fit in its (government) domain and to be fair there are a number of such actions. At that workshop, it was suggested that a workshop session at Sparkle (the Sunday session) could begin to consider how community-responsible actions could be progressed. Without any GEO input to date that I am aware of, this idea cannot be now be tackled systematically.

    I believe that your vision of the UK showing the rest of the world ‘how to get there’ is still possible but there needs to be a dialogue between government and the community, but on an equal basis, to shape the actions that will improve our lives.