Some Equality Act clarifications

As my last post seems to have struck a chord with some people, it’s become hugely popular and some good points have been bought out in discussion in numerous places. Rather than try to reply in all those places, I’ll put a post up here.

Firstly, I’ll keep up any comment that’s reasonable debate and not a personal attack. Here’s a hint though, if your comment includes phrases like “Suck it up”, it’s going to get deleted. My blog, my rules. Deal.

It also seems some people misinterpreted the post to mean that I no longer identify as a woman. The point is that I do, but the Equalities Act 2010 now brands me a “Transsexual Person”.

On the act itself, much of it isn’t directly regressive in terms of primary legislation but goes against what had been a gradual swing towards equality over the last few years. In terms of equality, things like best practice and secondary legislation are as important if not more important in what happens out there in the wider world than what parliament originally passed. The commencement of this act means all that best practice is being rewritten – to include all the “you’re allowed to discriminate against anyone who you think might be Trans” points. We’ve been over the specifics informally with a few people, including lawyers, since the original posts went up and they broadly agree with the interpretation – not that there is really much to disagree with, given the examples in the explanatory notes are quite graphic. I’ve heard a couple of dissenting voices, but always people I’ve not managed to sit down and go through the act with. Equalities people tend to be quite surprised when we point out the specifics.

There’s been some confusion over access to services in that the act compels discrimination. It does not do this, it just allows for it to take place. However, bitter experience within the Trans community shows that we’re often the ones to suffer if someone objects to our presence. It’s rarely the loud, problematic and transphobic individuals who get excluded from spaces if they create a fuss but us, because we’re seen as an easy target. Someone objects to a fellow patient on a single-sex hospital ward who they think might be Transsexual? Who do you think the hospital are going to move? It’s worse with rape counselling services as such organisations are usually (Understandably) run by feminist-minded people. Whilst the vast majority of feminists are pro-trans there are a few second-wavists who are rabidly anti-Trans, because our very existence disproves some of their most deeply-held beliefs. Under the guise of “Some people might not feel comfortable”, they’re allowed quite legally to operate a blanket ban across the organisation for anyone with non-binary gender expression or to selectively exclude anyone they don’t like.

I’ll resort to the usual cliché here, updated to reflect modern Britain – would it be OK to exclude all Romany (Or people of colour or Hispanics if you’re American) because people might be uncomfortable or because of some constructed fallacy that all sexual assaults are carried out by a particular group? (Hint: Not all sexual assault is men assaulting women) Clearly not, so why are we so special that we deserve to be singled out for discrimination in the laws of the land?

There’s one area that is very obviously regressive though, to the point that one lawyer suggested that it may even be a drafting error in the legislation. (Many thanks to Darren Newman for spotting this one) I’ve mentioned this but never blogged about the details so I think some people are unclear on it. The specific section is Schedule 6 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. This updated Section 7 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, itself modified by the section 4 of the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999, with the upshot of the whole thing being that you can’t discriminate against someone at all if they have a Gender Recognition Certificate. Rather than progressively extending protection to other areas, the Equalities Act 2010 undoes the changes put in place by the Gender Recognition Act such that a Gender Recognition Certificate is no longer useful.

Or, to put it another way: Trans folk are made to jump through hoops to get a gender Recognition Certificate, including going through the trauma of state-mandated divorce just to get our Human Rights back. Then, a few years later parliament passes a law which basically tells us it was all for nothing and we’re not going to get our rights back.

Think we might be a little pissed off with this? You bet we are.

6 comments

  1. Hi Zoe

    Lynne Featherstone is getting her civil servants to report back on the apparent inequalities introduced by the recent Act (she does not think that the issues that you and others are raising can be correct). Credit to her for looking into it.

    My other concern is that the GEO Trans Action Plan will contain a list of studies that must be undertaken before they can decide what to do rather than the actions that should now be taken to improve the lot of trans folk and their families.

    1. Lynne Featherstone is getting her civil servants to report back on the apparent inequalities introduced by the recent Act (she does not think that the issues that you and others are raising can be correct).

      I exchanged a couple of messages with Lynne over the weekend to that effect. It concerns me a bit given that much of what we’ve raised is taken from the explanatory notes themselves but one of the big problems is that the Act went through too quickly, so I can understand bits got overlooked.

      I have no expectations either way about the Trans Action Plan, but I feel if we keep on at the GEO about what’s currently bothering us it can only help. Even studies are better than we have at the moment, which is no action.

  2. I think that the EU’s Human Rights Act will show that this bit of the EqAct is unenforceable nonsense.
    Parliament does not like to acknowledge that EU rights trump it.

  3. Essential to rmemeber that the EU only recognises two sorts of people FEMALES and MALES regardless of what the bigots an fools of Parliament think or do.

    tough on all the teegees but who cares abbout th eLGBT gang anyway?

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