Trans gender discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 refers to 'gender reassignment' and 'transsexual persons', though the NUJ uses the terms 'trans people', 'trans man' and 'trans woman'.

The Equality Act 2010 refers to 'gender reassignment' and 'transsexual persons', though the NUJ uses the terms 'trans people', 'trans man' and 'trans woman'. It describes the process when someone moves from the gender assigned at birth to their preferred gender. It may not involve any medical treatment.

You do not need to have had any specific treatment or surgery. This is because the Act regards changing your physiological or other gender attributes as a personal process rather than a medical one.

The Act says someone has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if they: "are proposing to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning their sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex."

You can be at any stage of the transition process. For example, you may have been through the process in the past and transitioned to your preferred gender already; you may be intending to change your gender, even though you've not started the process; you may have started the process, or discontinued it; or you may be dressing in a particular way to express your chosen gender.

The Act says you must not be discriminated against because your gender identity is different from the gender assigned to you at birth – for example, when you are born female but decide to spend your life as a man.

According to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, you must not be discriminated against because:

  • you are trans. You are protected as trans only if you propose to change your gender or have done so. So, for example, if a group of men on a stag night dress as women and are turned away from a restaurant, they are not protected from discrimination because they are not trans.
  • someone thinks you are trans, perhaps because you sometimes cross-dress or are gender variant (where you do not have a fixed gender identity). This is 'discrimination by perception'.
  • you are connected to a trans person, or someone wrongly thought to be trans. This is 'discrimination by association'.

The Equality Act does not refer to non-binary or gender fluid people, but a tribunal ruling against Jaguar Land Rover in September 2020 ruled that they are protected the Act.

There is no explicit protection for intersex people. This term describes a number of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the typical definitions of female or male. However, you must not be discriminated against because of your gender or perceived gender.

If, for example, a woman with an intersex condition is refused entry to a women-only swimming pool because the attendants think her to be a man, this could be sex or disability discrimination.

There are, though, some situations when being treated differently due to gender reassignment may be lawful. These are if:

  • an organisation takes positive action to encourage or develop trans people to participate in a role or activity in which they are under-represented or disadvantaged.
  • the circumstances fall under one of the exceptions to the Equality Act that allow organisations to provide different treatment or services.
  • in competitive sports, a sports organisation restricts participation because of gender reassignment. For example, the organisers of a women's triathlon event decide to exclude a trans woman because they think her strength gives her an unfair advantage. The organisers would need to be able to demonstrate this was the only way it could make the event fair for everyone.
  • a service provider provides single-sex services. If you are accessing a service provided for men-only or women-only, the organisation providing it should treat you according to your gender identity. In very restricted circumstances, it is lawful for an organisation to provide a different service or to refuse the service to someone who is undergoing, intends to undergo or has undergone gender reassignment.