Gender Reassignment is a protected characteristic under the UK Government's Equality Act 2010.
The Equality Act 2010 seeks to protect individuals who identify as transgender. Transgender people are individuals who do not identify with their assigned gender at birth, and seek to restore their gender identity through gender reassignment.
Currently, the law recognizes gender as binary (male/female) and is currently silent on additional gender identities and non-gender conforming identities. The key concept in equality for trans people is respect – respect for their gender identity, for their right to work or study with dignity, for their name and personal identity, for their privacy and confidentiality. Therefore all trans people should be treated according to their gender identity, irrespective of their legal gender.
St Mary's LGBT Staff Network has been a driving force and partner in our ambition of creating a truly inclusive community and environment. Learn more about our LGBT Staff Network.
What is Gender Reassignment?
It is important to distinguish between ‘gender reassignment’ and ‘sexual orientation’. These two terminologies define two different things and are not synonymous.
Gender reassignment applies to individuals who find the gender they were assigned at birth does not match their gender identity. Therefore, they seek restoration of their gender identity. Different terms are used to describe the range of people whose gender identity is different from their assigned gender from birth. The most common umbrella terms are 'transgender people' or 'trans people'.
What's the difference between gender, trans, and non-binary?
Gender is a social construct and is indicative of characteristics associated to men and women: Masculine characteristics are often associated to men, and feminine characteristics are attributed to women. Due to the long practice of gender, it has become common practice assume that our sex dictates our gender identity. In other words, where a newborn has male reproductive system they are assumed to be a boy. Similarly, a newborn who has female reproductive system are assumed to be girls. The existence of gender identity undermines gender and the presumed relationship between our reproductive system and gender identity.
Gender Identity refers to an internal aspect of ourselves which indicates how we relate to gender. In brief, our gender identity tells us whether we identify as male or female. If an individual identifies with their assigned gender at birth, they are 'cisgender'. On the other hand, if an individual does not identify with their assigned gender at birth and there is disparity between their sex and gender; they are 'transgender'.
Trans is an umbrella term for identities that are not cisgender. Trans is inclusive of transgender identities, non-gender conforming identities and third sex.
Non-binary refers to individuals whose gender identity cannot be categorized as either male or female. There are different identities within non-binary itself which illustrates the vast identities out there.
What is 'Gender Dysphoria'?
In some cases, individuals may experience discomfort due to the disparity between their biological body and gender identity; this is called 'gender dysphoria'. Gender dysphoria affects individuals differently from person to person. Individuals may begin by dressing in a way that matches their gender identity to address their gender dysphoria; and some may seek transition with sex-change surgery and/or hormone treatment. Nonetheless, the degree of gender dysphoria one experiences is not an indication of the legitimacy of their trans identity.
The Importance of Pronouns
When preferred pronouns and preferred names are disclosed, it is important that we respect and use these when addressing individuals. Referring to trans individuals by their preferred name and preferred pronouns can be empowering for the individual and is reaffirming of their gender identity. If you are unsure of their preferred pronouns, it is acceptable to ask politely so long as the conversation occurs in a safe space where the individual feels comfortable to disclose.
For example, an easy act for inclusion idchanging your zoom name/signature to reflect your pronouns.
What is 'transphobia'?
Transphobia is the direct discrimination or indirect discrimination against a person due to their transgender identity or non-gender conformity. Transphobia can hinder a transgender individual from living fulfilling lives. Harmful or discriminatory action against transgender individuals is unlawful.
Discrimination of any kind based on gender reassignment is prohibited under Equality Act 2010 and is not tolerated at St Mary's. St Mary's has zero tolerance for transphobia in our community.
What can universities do?
Currently, the law only recognizes two legal genders: male and female. St Mary's recognizes that the law is inadequate at providing protection for non-binary or third gender identities. Nonetheless, our commitment to creating a truly inclusive and equal community pushes us to go above and beyond our legal obligations. Our priority is to respect, safeguard and protect everyone in our community. This is manifested through our investments in gender-neutral bathrooms, using students and staff's personal gender pronouns and constantly reviewing our policies in pursuit of inclusion.