On June 12, Parliament will debate the Equality Act, a piece of legislation which applies in the United Kingdom, driven by guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, proposing a change in the definition of sex to ‘biological sex’.
The Act contains nine protected characteristics, including ‘gender reassignment’, which covers all trans people from discrimination.
The first parliamentary debate focuses on updating the Act to clarify that the characteristic ‘sex’ refers to biological sex. Advocates argue that the Government must exercise its power to specify that terms such as sex, male, female, man, and woman, in the context of the law, denote biological sex and not “sex as modified by a gender recognition certificate.”
The Government responded on January 26, saying that further clarification is unnecessary as providers can already restrict the use of spaces/services based on sex and/or gender reassignment.
The second debate aims to commit to not amending the Act’s definition of sex. The Government has previously affirmed its commitment to preserving legal protections for trans people, an already marginalised group. The Government responded on January 25, saying that they believe in individual liberty and that changes are unnecessary.
Ryan Flint, 23, identifies as non-binary and feels that these debates coinciding with pride month are not coincidental and are “a big slap in the face.”
“Now they’re doing this; there’s going to be even less rights and help for people like us.
“I feel like part of it is to cause a reaction and cause some controversy. It’s quite disgusting,” they say.
Ryan says that while it’s becoming more socially acceptable to express the queerer side of life as a presenting male, they still fear the stigma their community receives.
‘Now they’re doing this; there’s going to be even less rights and help for people like us’
“You get people in places that aren’t accepting of it. They look at you like some freak,” they say.
For Ryan, amending the Act is a step backwards. “We’ve fought for so many years for trans rights, and now we’ve got them, they’re being pushed back. It’s disgusting that we’re having to do this again.”
Ryan fears the implications this will have for future generations, saying, “When someone’s resentful of the life they won’t be able to live, they could pass this bitterness on to future generations.
“We need to raise as much awareness as possible so that future generations can educate themselves not to be brainwashed by family members; their views can be hateful towards communities like us.”
With advocates arguing that the change prioritises healthcare, Ryan feels this is “a cover-up just to be hateful and marginalise us all.”
For Dylan Lewis-Creser, 18, who identifies as non-binary, they believe that society needs to clarify that trans and non-binary people are not only tolerated but welcomed and accepted into an inclusive and pluralistic society.
“The Act is vitally important to the protection of many groups. The original exemptions for single-sex spaces were meant to be for good reason that could be proved. This is not disputable and should not be,” they say.
“However, where the Act and the intentions of this Government diverge, are for things that don’t have a legitimate reason to be single-sex,” adds Dylan.
“Why would a book club, for example, need to exclude trans and non-binary people for any other reason than bigotry? It rationalises the irrational fear of trans people that some in society have.”
‘It rationalises the irrational fear of trans people’
Dylan says trans people will always exist, but this proposed change will make their lives harder.
Charlotte Siddle, 53, is a trans female who “came into official existence February 4, 2019.” Charlotte has questioned the proposed change to biological sex, saying that it will affect more than just the trans community.
“Already, women who don’t conform to society’s perceived ‘female’ ideals are being harassed when in public toilets,” she says. “Will there be ‘genital inspection police’ at the doors?”
Charlotte, who is currently applying for her gender recognition certificate, says that this change would nullify that process. “I feel it is a divisive course of action that will harm society,” she adds.
It is essential for the debates surrounding the Act and the Gender Recognition Act to address these complexities and provide clarity. The goal should be to foster understanding and cooperation while ensuring that the rights and protections of all individuals, including transgender individuals, are upheld and respected.
While this proposed change currently does not impact the existing legal protections, it remains paramount for MPs to actively represent and advocate for the rights of transgender individuals throughout this ongoing debate.
You can watch the debate after the discussion on June 12 at parliamentlive.tv.