Is the battle for transexual equality over? Ten years on from the Gender Recognition Act, TheGayUK’s legal experts look at how the law is protecting or not, the transgender community.
This April, the LGBT community and their supporters will celebrate the ten year anniversary of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. This landmark law gave the trans community the ability to be legally classified by their chosen gender, i.e. to obtain a new birth certificate recognising that person as being a man or a woman (known as a “Gender Recognition Certificate”). The test was whether the person in question suffered from gender dysphoria (i.e. severe discomfort with one’s biological sex) and had lived as their chosen gender for two years.
Until December of last year there was a quirk in the law, which meant that any married person who wished to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate had to divorce their spouse if they wished to have their gender recognised. However, thanks to gay marriage, that quirk has now been removed.
Yet more good news came in the intervening 10 years, in the form of the Equality Act 2010. This act means it is now unlawful for a person to discriminate someone for being (among other things) trans. The definition for trans is whether someone has undergone, is undergoing or is proposing to undergo a process “for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex”. This means it protects trans people both before and after the operation, but not people who are happy with their biological sex but prefer to dress as the opposite.
But we are not there yet.
Alarming figures from the Home Office show that in 2014 there were over 550 hate crimes perpetrated against the trans community. This mightn’t seem like a lot, but it represents around a quarter of the trans community in the UK (based on the 2009 figure of how many Gender Recognition Certificate had been issued). What is of further concern is that the gap between the social acceptance of LGB people and trans people is widening. There is a danger of trans people being “left behind”, losing some of the unity that previously aligned their cause with that of the LGB community.
So whilst on the statute books the battle against inequality and prejudice has apparently been won, in the hearts and minds of many, trans rights are irrelevant or even abhorrent. It is up to all of us to continue to show solidarity in the fight for equality so that the abbreviation remains LGBT, not LGB and T.
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Charles Irvine is a barrister at 1 Gray’s Inn Square; David Peachey is a barrister at Enterprise Chambers. Both practice in the area of trusts of the home, inheritance and property law. Special thanks to Phillipa Woodrow, pupil barrister at 1 Gray’s Inn Square, who helped research this article.
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.