From the TUC

Trans equality debated in parliament for first time is slow but sure progress

09 Dec 2016, by Guest in Equality

On December 1st, Transgender Equality was debated on the Floor of the House of Commons for the very first time. Maria Miller MP moved the motion calling on the Government to review its response to the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee report on Transgender Equality, to ensure that the UK leads the world on trans equality rights.  Following on in debate, Angela Crawley MP highlighted the shortcomings of current legislation, specifically the uncertainty surrounding the rights of non-gendered and non-binary people. Ruth Cadbury MP acknowledged the cultural shift that is happening in society, especially among young people where there is greater acceptance of gender differences. Whilst that is to be applauded and celebrated, transgender people continue to face widespread prejudice and discrimination.

Chris Elmore MP informed the House that 582 incidents of hate crime against transgender people were reported in the UK in 2015 alone, and that this figure had trebled in the past five years. Deplorably, only nineteen had led to prosecution. He went on to quote disturbing evidence from the workplace. In 2000, a survey by GIRES found that, post transition, two in three transgender people had left their job, either because they were forced to do so or because they felt there was no other choice. We may have come a long way in sixteen years but it isn’t far enough. A more recent poll to mark International Transgender Day of Visibility 2016 revealed that around 36% of transgender people left their job due to their transition.

According to The Equality Act 2010, workers cannot be discriminated against because of their gender reassignment. However, the evidence suggests that far too often the Act is ignored. Mr Elmore went on to praise the work of trade unions that campaign tirelessly to make transgender people aware of their rights at work, and work alongside transgender people to fight cases of unlawful discrimination. He cited the superb work of UNISON and PCS, but there are more examples of excellent practice from among the TUC affiliates, for example GMB, Unite and UCU, not to mention the recent guidance published by the TUC itself.

Questions were also asked about the education system that is often woefully inept at accommodating transgender people. It is estimated that currently only 5% to 10% of transgender people begin transitioning under the age of 18, but those who do are often failed by their schools, colleges and sixth forms. Carol Monaghan MP, a teacher, made the excellent point that the pressures can be subtle and simply excluding someone from activities or friendship groups is a form of bullying. The work done by ATL, NUT, and my own union NASUWT to raise awareness among their members in schools could not be more important.

Caroline Flint MP raised concerns about gender-neutral environments, and whether they posed a risk to women. Whilst that particular point was addressed by Mrs Miller, it is right to assess the impact of any proposed changes on other vulnerable groups in order to create robust and workable legislation that has widespread respect from all parts of society. In a powerful speech, Sarah Champion MP reminded the House that transgender people form a highly diverse community, with a number of different trans identities, including those who define as non-binary and non-gendered. Sadly, however, more often than not, what brings the trans community together is stark experience of inequality, discrimination, transphobia, abuse and violence. Legislation needs to offer explicit protect them all.

In response from the Government, Caroline Dinenage MP (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities) acknowledged comments that the Government have not gone far enough or fast enough on trans equality, but she pledged to deliver sustained and embedded change. She thanked the Women and Equalities Committee for its report, and promised to continue to listen to all the voices on this important matter and deliver positive change for the trans community.

Trade Unions represent almost 5.8 million workers. That would include 58,000 trans workers according to research by GIRES that suggested that trans people may comprise 1% of the population. The voice of trade unions therefore needs to be heard by this Government. Unions have the knowledge and expertise to contribute to the development of robust legislation to protect transgender people in the workplace and in society.

3 Responses to Trans equality debated in parliament for first time is slow but sure progress

  1. nel
    Dec 10th 2016, 9:12 pm

    ..where is the science behind this? you conflate gender idnetity with biological sex and so far you seem to be seeking to consult unqualified partisan interests and totally ignoring what women ( ie 51% of the population, including women who have been married to autogynephiles) are saying. sweeping away womens legislative protections to spare the feelings of a vanishingly small number of people is dangerous. you are leaving yourself open to much more serious damage claims – which is worse?, misgendering someone or having your wife or daughter sexually violated, or say, having to share a hospital ward or prison cell with an exhibitionist autogynephile and not being permitted to object for fear of retaliation? you think they are harmless after treatment? nope. no research backs this up. in fact males who identify as women retain the male pattern of violent and sexual offending. its no use differentiating between transsexuals and fetishistic transvestites – they are all huddled under the same trans umbrella, all queuing up at the gender clinics for their free validation, hormones and surgery..
    so anyway, what are your contingency plans for the inevitable outcome and assaults on women you are planning to facilitate with your male-centered legislation?

  2. Debbie Hayton
    Dec 10th 2016, 10:50 pm

    Hi Nel, I do think that is right to assess the impact of any proposed changes on other vulnerable groups, and I called for this to happen in the piece I wrote. Debbie.

  3. Lucy
    Dec 11th 2016, 11:32 am

    Thank you for a well written article. As the partner (wife) of a transitioning person mtf I know first hand how important this is and how much this means to my partner.

    The previous comment exhibits a total lack of understanding of what transgender really means and ignorance of the issues involved. Not only does it lump together and confuse several different terms with transgender such as transvestite and autogynophilia which are completely different it also makes an invalid assertion about violence. There is absolutely no evidence that transexual women retain male violence patterns if indeed they ever had any to begin with. In fact the reverse they are likely to be the potential victims of violence both before and after transition. The writer of the comment needs to get their facts straight.