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Inappropriate questions

Inappropriate questioning is anything that is of a higher level of intimacy than questions you would ask a person who is not transgender.  For example, it would be inappropriate in general conversation to ask a man you didn’t know very well about the size and shape of his penis, or to ask a woman you only knew a little whether or not she wore a wig or a padded bra. Therefore, it is also completely inappropriate to quiz transgender people about their bodies.  It is also very impolite to ask transgender people what previous first names they might have had or what they used to look like.  Don’t let any natural curiosity about trans people override your usual politeness and sensitivity.

Organisations often wonder if they should ask trans employees or service users whether or not they have a Gender Recognition Certificate.  The Scottish Transgender Alliance is strongly of the view that there are only a very limited number of occasions when it would be acceptable to ask about someone’s gender recognition status or to ask to see their birth certificate.  The occasions where it would be appropriate to ask about gender recognition or to see someone’s birth certificate are:

  • where a job is restricted to a single sex/gender as a occupational requirement under Schedule 9, Part 1 of the Equality Act 2010 and therefore the legal sex/gender of an applicant determines whether or not they can be employed in the post;
  • where the calculations in regard to pensions or benefits differ depending on the legal gender/sex of the person;
  • where the person is applying to a registrar’s office to get a marriage or civil partnership.

It is good practice for all other aspects of employment or service provision to treat all trans people in accordance with the gender in which they live their lives.  This should be regardless of whether or not someone has a formal Gender Recognition Certificate.  If they live permanently in their acquired gender and therefore have their day to day identification documents (such as their bank cards, drivers licence or passport) in their acquired name and gender then that is all that an employer or service provider usually should need to know.  Just treat them as their acquired gender in all such cases without asking about gender recognition.  Some people will have undergone gender reassignment many years ago before it was possible to get a Gender Recognition Certificate and may not even know that such certificates exist, let alone how to apply.  Even when they do know about the Gender Recognition Act, some long-term transitioned people may not be able to get the necessary medical evidence assembled if the doctors who helped them to transition are now retired.  Other people might not have the literacy skills necessary to complete the paperwork needed to get a Gender Recognition Certificate.  Finally, people who are in existing marriages or civil partnerships are unable to get Gender Recognition without first ending their legal marriage or civil partnership so may decide not to apply. It is how people live their day to day lives which is the important consideration.