It is time to press for full gender and sexual equality in our law and administration

The case of Tara Hudson, a transgender woman who has been sent to one of the most violent all male prisons in the country for an admitted assault, highlights once again the need for British law and administration relating to gender dysphoria to be overhauled.

As a cysgender gay man I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to live with a condition where you experience discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between your biological sex and gender identity, but I don’t have to live with medical condition in order to understand the impact it must have on someone’s life. Nor do I think that a medical condition should have to be common for the law and administration in our country to be adjusted to take account of it.

Although primitive medical science used to consider gender dysphoria to be a mental health issue, modern medicine recognises that it may actually be the result of the development of a baby while it is in the womb (possibly as a result of genetic or hormonal factors) which causes the brain to develop a gender identity that is different to the baby’s sexual organs. Surely this should mean that, rather than mental health professionals being the first port of call when someone seeks gender reassignment, their services should only be called upon in the event that mental health issues arise for a patient.

The fact that gender dysphoria is now known to be a medical condition also means that our laws need to be adjusted to reflect this, not only for trans people but for all people living with this medical condition. In addition to reviewing our prison laws we need to address the question of spousal veto, gender recognition (including the option of gender X for those people who identify as neither male nor female) and the whole complex administration and process of the state recognising that not everyone is cysgender.

Liberal Democrats have been pioneers in the political movement that has steered British society towards equal recognition in law and administration for our LGBT+ communities, and Tim Farron has quite rightly committed to raising the case of Tara Hudson in Parliament.

Our society has come a long way since Roy Jenkins secured the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, but we still have a long way to go before everyone is seen as equal in the eyes of the law, let alone in our wider society as a whole. It is time for our party to push for measures that will secure full equality in British law and administration regardless of gender or biological sex. Whether that is equal pay for women, equal representation for all sexes and genders in parliament and local government and boardrooms, ending the blood ban and the spousal veto, or simply recognising Gender X.

* Chair of Manchester Gorton Liberal Democrats, a member of the NW Regional Executive and the English Council and Vice President of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats

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9 Comments

  • Excellent post, Iain. The disadvantages someone can be put at when they are trans but still officially/on paper still considered to be the gender they don’t identify as are varied.

    A friend of mine who is a trans woman has been paid less than her male colleagues for doing exactly the same job yet she cannot make a pay discrimination claim against her employers because she does not have a GRC and legally she is still considered male. Under the 1970 Equal Pay Act it’s okay for a sexist employer to pay a woman less for doing the same job as a man so long as the woman’s birth certificate reads male as this would simply be regarded as a man taking out an equal pay discrimination case against another man. It would therefore be concluded that there was no case of sex discrimination as both parties are of the same gender. However, this is a pretty disingenuous approach in my friend’s case as she lives 24 hours a day as female and she evidently falls victim to the same kind of sexism that any other woman would face but with the difference that in her case she has no redress to challenge it under British sex discrimination legislation. Moreover, her employers know that she is unlikely to leave as it would be very difficult for her – as she is – to find another position in a jobs market that is still very transphobic. Ironically, her employers consider themselves a paragon of liberal virtue for even employing a transgender person. Apparently, this is what you get for being the ‘wrong kind of transsexual.’

    Yes, it is time for the law to be changed to protect ALL transgender and also non-binary gender people as a common sense approach is definitely lacking in cases such as these where a woman is sent to a man’s prison just because she is not a state-approved woman with a GRC, or in the case of my mate, blatant gender pay discrimination is totally ignored by the very workplace sex discrimination laws which are supposed to address and prevent it. Protection for only certain transgender people is a poor substitute for equality.

  • What a refreshing read! Our society seems to have been constructed by cisgender heterosexual males – the tampon tax is just the latest illustration. Our society – every society – is a cornucopia of every kind of human being, diverse in every aspect of gender and sexuality. But because the rules are determined by cisgender heterosexual men, it’s assumed everyone is like those who write the rules. We need to rethink and redesign to reflect the reality.

  • Jenny Barnes 29th Oct '15 - 8:27am

    Why do we need to have a state sanctioned gender? Or – why do they need us to have an official gender?

  • Great post, Iain, and great comments from everyone else too. Katie, I had no idea about the employment discrimination, that’s awful 🙁

    I’m on the exec of plus (as is Dave, above, who is chair) – I’m sure we can push for policy in this matter

  • Fortunately he is still behinfd bars

    Last Friday, the make-up artist was jailed after she admitted headbutting a barman in Bath, causing damage to his teeth.
    She has eight previous convictions including offences for battery and had hoped her punishment would be less severe.

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