The law and trans people

Anti-discrimination law protects far more trans people than it says it does.

The Equality Act protects you from the moment you decide to transition. However, you have a right to privacy, so no-one should ask you if you are transitioning, or have transitioned. There is a statutory code on discrimination in services, which says providers should treat transsexual people according to the gender role in which they present. If you are a man cross-dressing for fun, and you go out, you should not be forbidden to use a women’s loo or changing room. If they ask you if you are transsexual or have decided to transition, you can refuse to answer such an impertinent question. There is no need to lie.

The code has a ridiculous example. Before going to a party in a local hotel, a guest lets it be known that he intends to come dressed as a woman for a laugh. However, the management says he cannot attend the event dressed as a woman as it would create a bad image for the business if there was bad behaviour on the premises. The management also tells a transsexual woman that she can’t come dressed as a woman as they don’t feel comfortable with the idea, notwithstanding the fact that they know she has been living as a woman for several years. The guest would not have a claim for discrimination because he does not intend to undergo gender reassignment and because the reason he is told not to come dressed as a woman relates to the management’s concern that overly boisterous behaviour would give a bad impression of the business, not because they think he is a transsexual person. The transsexual woman would have a claim as the reason for the less favourable treatment was because of her protected characteristic of gender reassignment.

The answer is don’t “let it be known”. Just turn up. Some AMAB people cross dress for pleasure, and some because we intend to transition. The hotel staff looking at you can’t tell which is which. I wondered if they might try to guess, if someone passed particularly badly, but that does not mean that they are not transitioning. We all have to start somewhere.

I don’t like that they say cross-dressing is “bad behaviour”. “Overly boisterous”- some cross-dressers can be meek souls, behaving quietly and respectably. The code is saying the hotel could forbid behaviour not because of how it affects other guests, but because of the motivation. They can’t forbid transitioners, but they can forbid cross-dressers. Not all businesses would: I liked an Italian restaurant in Oldham, and when I asked about going cross-dressed, they were fine about it. I did not want to draw attention to myself.

You might even make a legal claim if you are a cross dresser, refused access to women’s loos. You have to prove that the hotel believed you were transitioning. Unless they know you personally, they have no reason to believe you are not. If they have no firm belief that you are a cross dresser, they are discriminating against you though they may believe you are protected. It is discrimination if you are perceived to be trans: A woman with a medical condition that makes her appear ‘masculine’ is wrongly perceived to be undergoing gender reassignment and refused entry to a women-only sauna session at her local leisure centre. This is likely to be less favourable treatment because of gender reassignment.

If you clearly parody women’s clothes, you might be excluded, but trans people’s dress sense can be pretty bad, so you might get away with it. You may still face street harassment though. If it’s enough to put you in fear, it may be a crime. My street harassment reduced by a great deal when I completed electrolysis.

The code has this example of discrimination: A group of women complain to a health spa manager that they feel uncomfortable around another member of the spa who is a transsexual woman. In response, the manager apologises to the transsexual woman but tells her that she will not be able to use the spa again. This is less favourable treatment of her, as it puts her at a clear disadvantage compared to the spa’s other clients and will not be lawful if the spa’s conduct is because of gender reassignment. Transitioning or transitioned women have the right to be treated like other women.

Trans women have been protected by discrimination law on access to services since the Sex Discrimination (Amendment of Legislation) Regulations 2008. We have self-ID already: all you have to do is dress up. The campaign against trans women in women’s spaces pretends that there is some great change suggested, but that is a lie.

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