Some are more equal than others

// 2 August 2010


Zöe has a must-read post called simply Equality? over at her blog, in which she takes a look at the changes the Equality Act 2010 (direct link to PDF) will bring and concludes that:

It means that there is one “protected” class where protection is explicitly removed, not granted. It means that a gender recognition certificate is not worth the paper it’s printed on. Rather than being a recognition that they are of the target gender, it’s a nullity, as the law states that they’re not, not really. […]

[…] any legally sex-segregated area can now legally exclude anyone who’s trans from either being employed there, or as customers.

Regardless of whether they have a GRC or not.

All the proprietors have to prove is that it’s genuinely possible some of their clientele might be lost should they allow a “transsexual person” to be present on the premises.

Note also that the converse does not apply: it is illegal sex-discrimination to require counsellors for trans people to be trans themselves.


[The Equality Act 2010] effectively repeals large sections of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 – to wit, in all areas of provision of legally sex-segregated services. Things like toilets for example.

Note that it does not apply to transgendered people who are not transsexual persons. Only those who have started or completed the process of transition. Crossdressers good, transsexuals bad.

So apparently, even though I have a full GRC, and all my other documentation shows my gender correctly, I will no longer legally be a woman when this Act comes into force in October; I’ll be a “transsexual person” and that means I can forget it if I think I can count on UK law for any protection of my civil and human rights.

I’m already seeing a groundswell of outrage and anger amongst some of my trans sisters online; I think it’s entirely understandable, even justifiable. Because, when you get right down to it, cis society is transphobic, by default and to its core; there is precious little respite for trans people and, like most humans, repeatedly backing us into a corner isn’t going to put us in the best of humours.

But anti-trans prejudice is so deeply embedded in cis society that all the legislation in the world is never going to change anything for the better, least of all the attitudes of cis people. There’s no logic, no acceptance and certainly no justice. There never really was – all this legislation will do is formalise a state of affairs which already exists.

Cis people may, rightly, feel aggrieved about the low proportion of reported rapes that end in a successful prosecution – but has anyone ever seen statistics for reported rapes of trans people? Has anyone ever heard of even one trans person who’s seen a successful prosecution? And there may well be too few rape crisis centres available to cis women – but how many of them will even let a trans woman through the door, let alone offer help and support?

The fact is that the law – like many other aspects of society which the majority of cis people take for granted – is simply not accessible to us. Trans people are routinely dehumanised and demonised, excluded and harassed, attacked and even murdered with impunity by cis people from across the entire class spectrum – and, be honest, would you trust a system in which nearly everyone you meet treats you as less than human?

As the old joke goes: it doesn’t matter which way you vote, the government still gets in. And as far as I’m concerned, with this legislation, the government looks set to do a far better job of morally mandating people like me out of existence than Janice Raymond could ever dream of.

Comments From You

A J // Posted 2 August 2010 at 8:28 pm

It’s a terrible change and a pretty shocking example of the renewed intense anti-trans prejudice that’s somehow seems to have become acceptable among some of those who claim to be working towards equality (and indeed, claim to feminists). Depressing stuff, and more so that they’ve been allowed to have this sort of malign influence on the act.

‘Equality’ must have a bitter ring to it among trans people these days.

It’s pretty unfair to blame the new government for this though – the Equality Act was passed in April and is pretty much entirely Harriet Harman’s baby. So it’s Labour’s fault. Though frankly we’re all partly responsible for allowing it be passed unchallenged.

Helen G // Posted 2 August 2010 at 8:36 pm

Yeah, absolutely: the legislation was drafted under a Labour administration and will be enacted under a Conservative/LibDem coalition, so none of the three major political parties comes out of this looking particularly well, in my opinion.

But to be honest, I’m really not that interested in playing the blame game, it serves no useful purpose that I can see. Instead I think it’s more important to focus on finding ways to protest the proposed changes, in the (admittedly faint) hope that they can be removed from the Act entirely.

earwicga // Posted 2 August 2010 at 11:40 pm

“Instead I think it’s more important to focus on finding ways to protest the proposed changes, in the (admittedly faint) hope that they can be removed from the Act entirely.”

If this is repealed then it will only be as the result of a court ruling, just like every other LGBT human right, which has been ‘given’ over the last 13 years.

Aidan Skinner // Posted 3 August 2010 at 12:25 am

@Helen G AFAICT this section did not appear, or was implled, in either the consultation paper or the governments response (

There is limited provision for exclusion of protection for people on the basis of gender in areas such as ” (a) education (including vocational training); (b) the content of media and advertisements; and (c) the provision of goods, facilities or services (not normally provided on a commercial basis) at a place (permanently or for the time being) occupied or used for the purposes of an organised religion.”


but that is very different from this direct attack on trans rights.

Ethan // Posted 3 August 2010 at 8:06 am

I don’t like that example of rape victims at all. I mean, excuse me? A transwoman is a woman, a transman is a man. For one thing, does this imply that no matter what we do, we will always have a black mark that says ‘trannie!’ on our paperwork? That’s not right. Not at all. What the hell is the point in everything that’s been built to protect us if it’s all going to be torn down like this?

Anyone know of a country that DOES have good protection for trans people? Because I really don’t want to stay in the UK if I’m going to be black-marked, effectively nullifying everything I’ve gone through.. What’s the point in that GRC I can’t WAIT to apply for? Nothing, if this ‘Equality’ act comes through.

A J // Posted 3 August 2010 at 9:33 am

@ Ethan – no, of course it’s ridiculous. Actual rape victims have significantly more important things to worry about than whether the person they’re dealing with is trans or cis, and very likely couldn’t care less.

But then this change wasn’t implemented for them…

I don’t really have much hope of repeal, given the political power of certain hateful strands of opinion in the field of ‘equality’ matters. Best hope is the courts, yet again.

Laura // Posted 4 August 2010 at 8:48 pm

This is appalling. As you say, Helen, it demonstrates just how incredibly far we have to go in combating society’s deeply entrenched transphobia. Presumably at least some of those involved in writing the Act are activists in other areas of social justice, and the fact that even they can’t get that trans people are human beings with human rights that are categorically NOT subordinate to those of cis people is hugely depressing. Shame on all of them.

Lynne Miles // Posted 5 August 2010 at 10:18 am

This is really shameful. H, are you aware of any actions going on that we can join in with to get this repealed? How can we help, practically?

Helen G // Posted 5 August 2010 at 10:48 am

Realistically, it’s too late to expect any clarification in the Act itself (which will come into force in October, come what may). So it seems as though it will have to be challenged through the courts.

For anyone interested, there’s quite an in-depth discussion in the comments over at Questioning Transphobia

Suzanne // Posted 9 August 2010 at 10:52 pm

I am probably being thick here as I have just skimmed over the proposed act and I am not keen on all that legalistic jargon but… Am I right in thinking that vicars, priests etc can refuse to marry you if they discover you have a GRC certificate? Whereas before this Bill that was not the case?? Can any legal beagles out there help Thank you


makomk // Posted 10 August 2010 at 10:07 am

Suzanne: they can, but I seem to recall that was still the case before the bill passed too. (Read that debate when trying to find exactly how the Equality Act ended up reducing protection for transgender people.) It’s not terribly remarkable; religious groups have always had limited exemptions to most of the anti-discrimination laws.

makomk // Posted 11 August 2010 at 10:23 am

Helen: Any challenge through the courts seems unlikely to succeed. The previous Government deliberately permitted discrimination against trans people for the purpose of protecting (cis) women’s gender equality. This is the kind of trade off they’re allowed to make in principle, and I doubt the courts will see anything wrong with this particular decision.

Which leaves trying to push a new law through Parliment. Fortunately, Labour are no longer in power. I know the Conservatives are really awful on both trans issues and equality issues in general, but these clauses in the Equality Act were pretty clearly a stitch-up perpetrated at the highest level of the Labour party. They put them in and made sure the only action the Commons could take against them would be to vote against the progress of the bill as a whole – something that’d be spun in the press as being against equality, damaging the reputation of any Labour MP who dared defy the party whip. If they were still in power – no chance.

amx. // Posted 11 August 2010 at 1:18 pm

This is shocking but not suprising. Trans rights issues are often dismissed by people who claim to be feminist, tbh most of the anti-trans bile I’ve heard has actually come from these ‘Feminists’.

The message from the government here seems to be – cis women know your place. trans women you have no place!

Trans-phobia is so entrenched we must all work on behalf of our sisters not against them. We can start by challenging prejudices where we find them in feminist circles.

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