The Equality Act 2010 brought together 116 individual pieces of legislation relating to discrimination across all facets of UK society.
Specific to transgender people, the act bans discrimination in many areas of our lives. Several key areas addressed by the act are:
- Goods, facilities and services
Historically, transgender people have experienced serious discrimination in these areas. This problem was highlighted in the 2007 report, Engendered Penalties: Transgender and Transsexual People’s Experiences of Inequality and Discrimination.
This study predates the Equality Act 2010, and served as an important input in describing the level of discrimination needed to be addressed by the Act.
Goods, facilities and services
Discrimination in access to goods, facilities and services consists of actual instances as well as perceptions by the transgender person that discrimination is likely to occur. 47% of the respondents to the survey reported that they do not use certain public facilities rather than risk experiencing discrimination. Only 5.4% of respondents reported actually being refused services outright, but it is clear that this number has been suppressed by the numbers of trans people who avoid these places altogether.
Similar statistics have been reported when it comes to changing facilities in shops or retail outlets. Only one in ten respondents reported being refused access, yet one in four never attempts to use these facilities.
Overwhelmingly discrimination in employment was found to be the most prevalent area of discrimination in the report and our research consistently shows that trans people suffer from high levels of unemployment or underemployment. Employment discrimination takes many forms, such as: failure to have gender identity related anti-harassment or anti-discrimination policies, failure to provide appropriate access to toilets during transition, not having a policy for staff undergoing gender reassignment and overall discrimination in terms of retention, promotion and recruitment. Over half of the respondents to the Engendered Penalties study reported either being forced to resign or feeling compelled to leave due to working conditions post-transition. Many reported that they were now doing lower paid work since their gender transition. There were also reports of verbal abuse (23%) and physical abuse (6%).
Addressing discrimination in employment is critical for transgender people, not just in terms of their health and wellbeing but also because assessments required in order to progress a medical transition may take into account the ability of the trans person to function in their acquired gender in the workplace.
Education is an area where discrimination manifests itself more as harassment and bullying than by denial of services. Because of this, actual instances of discrimination are understated due to the fact that children learn to modify their behaviour to avoid becoming the targets of bullying. One noticeable outcome of this is that while trans people as a group reported higher levels of education than the population as a whole, they showed a much higher incidence of earning those credentials as returning students. This ties in to the fact that young trans people exhibit a much higher than average dropout rate. LGBT Youth Scotland’s Education Report highlighted an extremely worrying prevalence of transphobic harassment and bullying in education.
One other area in which trans people experience significant equality issues is in housing. This can range from experiencing harassment in the local neighbourhood to being denied rental of property. It might also include discrimination by a local authority or a housing association in the way they provide services to you. In some instances seemingly well-intentioned landlords may suggest that a trans person does not rent their property because they might experience abuse from their neighbours.