I have not seen last night’s episode – I’ll watch it tonight – but I understand that there was a scene in My Transsexual Summer that some people have expressed surprise at where Drew is refused employment in a Bridalwear shop on account of being a Transwoman.
Unfortunately, this is not only permitted under the Equality Act (EA2010), it’s one area where Trans folk had rights stripped away as a result of the new legislation. Prior to the EA2010, if someone had a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) then they could not – except for a tightly defined set of circumstances involving intimate searches and the like – be discriminated against. This came from the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA2004) amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. The explanatory notes from the GRA2004 say:
If, for example, the nature of the job requires a woman, it is open to the employer to show that it is reasonable to treat a male to female transsexual person as being unsuitable for that job. The amendments made by Schedule 6 mean that these exceptions will not be available once a person has been recognised in the acquired gender
I don’t know if Drew has a GRC or not, but it’s now irrelevant. The EA2010 removed this rule regarding having a GRC, such that it’s just as legal to discriminate against someone just because you think they might be Trans. (They do not actually have to be Trans, you just have to have “reasonable grounds” to believe they might not be cisgendered)
To add insult to injury, there’s a “passing clause” in the guidelines issued by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. If you’re “visually and for all practical purposes indistinguishable from a non-transseuxal person of that gender” then it’s much harder, almost impossible, to justify discrimination.
Paradoxically, every other protected characteristic allows you to employ a person with that characteristic – you can insist someone is from a certain ethnic background for example, if you can show that it’s needed to do the job. It’s reversed for Gender Reassignment in that you can insist someone is cisgendered, (Not Transgendered) such as in this case. You can not however insist that someone is Transgendered, no matter how relevant that is to the job as that would be unlawful discrimination.
There’s possibly some room for debate on if being cisgendered might be a “Genuine Occupational Qualification” in this case. It’s arguable that it’s not, but as Sarah put it, “I wouldn’t want to take that one on as a test case”. There’s a strong possibility you’d be having to stuff people into tight-fitting wedding dresses and wield the tape measure, so it’s a step up from just the “changing room problem”.