Transgender - more Guidance and Clarity is needed

Discrimination of any description is an unwelcome aspect of society and there is a considerable amount of legislation aimed at reducing the opportunity to exhibit or act in a discriminatory manner.  In some areas, the discrimination laws have had the effect of slowly altering the behaviour and perception of public and organisations towards certain sectors of society, for example, race discrimination and sex discrimination.  That is not to say that these types of discrimination have been eradicated but there is far less tolerance shown towards individuals and organisations that show signs of such discrimination. 


However, there are other areas that are poorly understood where discrimination is blatant and appears to take place without the disapproval of society.  Transgender people seem to be in a category that attracts unwelcome attention.  A transgender woman, Jay Campbell, who has been living as a woman for two years and is a considerable way down the line to full transmission attempted to use the ladies’ changing room in Debenham’s  Glasgow but was met with refusal despite her pleas that she was a transgender woman she was still re-directed to the men’s changing room.  In tears, she went to the alternative changing room where the staff there were surprised at their colleague’s decision and told her that all staff had received training related to exactly that situation.   Understandably Ms. Campbell had then decided that she no longer wished to shop in Debenham’s and left the store for the House of Fraser where she was treated entirely differently and received understanding and proper consideration.


Debenham’s, when approached for comment, apologised and said that their changing rooms are not gender specific and stated that they were looking into the incident.


The whole question of who can access gender specific destinations needs to be properly clarified, from men only bathing pools on Hampstead Heath to where transgender individuals are imprisoned should they fall foul of the law.  At present there is no crystal clear guideline for organisations, there is nebulous information from the Equality and Human Rights Commission Statutory Code of Practice 201l, the Equality Act; the Gender Reassignment Act 2004, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Sex Discrimination (ender Re-assignment Amendment of Legislation) Regulations and the Equality Act 2010 have all played a part in assisting the transgender community.  It has to be recognised that in the case of transgender individuals the process of moving to the gender of choice can take some time.  It is a very big step and understandably some people may want to think extremely carefully before taking such a radical step and may themselves prolong the process, so their new birth certificate may take some time to acquire.  There is also the question of cross-dressing individuals who are not actively seeking to re-assign their gender.  


In 2017 a gentleman’s club, the Saville Club, permitted a transgender woman to remain a member but it is not clear what would happen in some of those ancient gentlemen’s clubs founded in London in a by-gone era, if a potential member applied who had been born a woman.  It is almost certain that such private members clubs the potential for a transgender person requesting membership was certainly not considered when they were founded and do not have a protocol in the membership rules. 

Incidentally, it is perfectly legal to found or continue to restrict an existing club membership to those with restrictive characteristics such as a particular gender or race. 


At present, there are infinitely more questions than answers for the transgender community.


Should you want more information about discrimination in all its forms please email or telephone 020 7043 5928