Posts Tagged My Transsexual Summer

Employment, The Equality Act and My Transsexual Summer

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”.

For more background, I’ve tagged earlier posts that relate to the EA2010. Particularly relevant are “Some Equality Act Clarifications and Good, Bad and Ugly, both from October 2010.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice(Edited at 1345: I’m told it was Drew that encountered this, not Donna as I originally stated)

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My Transsexual Summer

Cleaning up from yesterday’s internet meltdown has meant that I’ve not had the chance to write about this at length, but last night I went to a preview of the first episode of Channel 4′s new documentary, “My Transsexual Summer“, which airs tonight (Tuesday 8th November) at 10pm.

First off, it’s not perfect. But then, nothing ever will be – we can be an argumentative community at the best of times and even if this was produced by Trans folk, either everyone would still object or it would be terribly, terribly dull. (Follow my life with a camera and unless I happened to be on holiday, you’d mostly just get shots of me sitting in meeting rooms and typing on computers – not exactly blockbuster stuff.)

And some of the language used in voice overs at the start is a bit cringeworthy for anyone involved in the community, but the producer was quick to put his hands up to that one. He admitted that it changed over the course of the series and if he’d redone it from the start, different wording would have been used.

But in a way, that helps the programme as even from just one episode it felt as if it was telling the story of a journey, rather than a lecture or just a snapshot of someone’s life.

Notably, the cast – four trans women and, unusually, three trans men – did have a big say in how they were portrayed at their “summer retreat” house, enough that they got to veto many proposed titles and Max stood up and spoke in defense of the title they finally picked -before the producers could say much – when someone asked a question on it. Perhaps it was having the cast sitting at the back giggling and groaning along to various parts, but it felt positive. I identified (As a trans person) very quickly with the cast and many parts reminded of many past conversations I’ve had within the community… yes, right up to using the word “Tranny” to describe oneself to others within the community.

I’ve no doubt someone is going to complain about that at least, and perhaps the overuse of makeup at the start and lots of other things. But having seen it and having chatted to many of those in it and having had the chance to talk over the challenges faced by the producers and those that worked on it, I’m inclined to be very defensive if someone does take exception to it.

I felt that it’s more than just a step in the right direction, it’s a programme that pretty accurately reflected how many trans people carry on with each other in private. And we’re not all perfect paragons of Political Correctness, and we don’t all take ourselves that seriously.

One warning: There is a rather graphic part in the first episode where they show one of the transwomen being operated on. Yes, it’s that operation and it was certainly possible to get a good idea of who in the audience was either a cis male or pre-op transwoman from who was squirming and looking uncomfortable.

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