The key legislation is contained in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010. Guidance on applying these laws is also provided by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Here is an overview of current and proposed UK law in relation to the rights of females and transgender people.
The GRA was introduced to enable people to legally change their sex. This was mainly to assist those with severe gender dysphoria, although it was also recognised at the time (long before marriage equality laws) that this would enable a same-sex couple to marry, if one were to change their sex. Its implications for women are explained here.
The Equality Act lists nine protected characteristics, including sex and gender reassignment, as explained here. It recognises that single-sex exemptions are a form of discrimination but a necessary one. It permits the exclusion of men in a number of situations, such as sport, domestic abuse refuges and prisons. It also explains how to address potential conflict of rights between those protected due to their sex (usually women) and those protected from discrimination due to their gender reassignment. It is clear that anyone who has transitioned, or are transitioning, should not be discriminated against for this fact. Their treatment should be the same as if they did not have gender reassignment, that is, the same as if they were still presenting as their birth sex. This is critical, often misunderstood and frequently misrepresented. A male-to-female transitioner does not access the single-sex protections of females. They do not become female for the purposes of the EA2010. The rights of women and transgender people are compared here. To understand how we have reached this point, read our explanation, part one and part two.
In 2018 the government ran a public consultation on proposals for changes to the GRA, replacing medical supervision with a simple process known as “self-ID”. We believe that self-ID would have a disastrous impact on women’s safety, privacy and dignity. The government has stated explicitly and firmly that there is no intention to review the EA2010, even though some trans campaign groups such as Stonewall have lobbied for changes, including the removal of sex as a protected characteristic. This would have a disastrous effect on women, since it would mean the end of single-sex exemptions.
Only a tiny number of people in the UK, fewer than 5000, have used the GRA since its inception to change their legal sex. Many more are protected from discrimination for their transgender status under the EA 2010. A common misconception is that all these people have the right to be treated as if they were the opposite sex. Guidance from the EHRC was changed in late 2018, prompted by Fair Play For Women, to clarify this point. However it is not widely known, and many organisations have adopted a de-facto self-ID policy even though this is nowhere in UK law. Much of our campaigning work is to address the problems this has created.