UK Trans advocates have slammed reports in the Daily Mail and The Times relating to trans women in female changing rooms.
A statement released yesterday by the UK Government Equalities Office led to the reports. It indicates public and private organizations will be able to choose if they want to ban trans women from female-only spaces. At least, that’s how certain sections of the mainstream press present it.
The UK Government has been looking at updating the country’s gender recognition laws. Trans campaigners hope this will allow them to legally change their gender without undergoing medical checks or doctor’s approval.
However, ahead of the launch of a consultation on the Gender Recognition Act, a statement from the Government Equalities Office suggests cis women will be able to bar trans women from women-only changing rooms and swimming sessions.
The decision comes in the wake of some people complaining about trans women entering certain women-only spaces, such as the women’s swimming pond on Hampstead Heath.
A Government Equalities Office spokesperson said:
‘Since we announced our intention to reform the Gender Recognition Act in 2017, we have been clear we will not amend the Equality Act 2010.
‘Any reform of the Gender Recognition Act will not change the protected characteristics in the Equality Act nor the exceptions under the Equality Act that allow provision for single and separate sex spaces.’
LGBTI campaigner Jane Fae said some media reports of the statement with regards to changing rooms are, ‘not only untrue, but mischievous. Any small business owner taking this information as true is likely to find themselves on a very fast track to their local court.
Fae says the government’s consultation on gender recognition was never intended to include changes to the Equality Act. Yesterday’s statement did not surprise her.
‘The government was only ever planning to consult about the Gender Recognition Act: claims that it would also look at the specific limited exemptions contained in the Equality Act, which apply to exceptional issues, such as Rape Crisis Centres, were always just spin and scare-mongering put forward by the anti-trans lobby.
‘The fact that they are not going to look at the Equality Act means nothing changes – and trans folk should just get on with living their lives the way they always have.’
‘Equality Act is quite separate from the Gender Recognition Act’
Her views were echoed by a spokesperson for Trans Media Watch, which highlighted the way the story was reported in the Daily Mail (‘Women WILL be allowed to bar transgender people from female-only changing rooms in toilets and swimming pools’).
‘We are surprised to see the Mail reporting in its news section about a state of affairs that has not changed since 2010. This is perhaps indicative of just how far behind the times they are.
‘Their interpretation of what the law means is misleading at best, implying that exemptions meant to provide flexibility in highly sensitive situations could be used much more broadly, which precedent would not support.
‘Furthermore, the Equality Act is quite separate from the Gender Recognition Act, which is the piece of legislation regarding which a consultation has been proposed. The Equality Act is not under review. We have repeatedly asked the press to stop creating confusion by treating the two as synonymous. This is irresponsible journalism.’
Paul Twocock, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research at Stonewall, said: ‘Trans people can and have been using the toilets that match their gender for years without issue. This is another media-generated “debate” based on inaccurate information.
‘This is not what reform of the Gender Recognition Act is about because the law already states that trans people can access single-sex spaces that match their gender, and should not be discriminated against.
‘The exemptions to this rule only apply to sensitive and complex services for example refuges, where services can exclude trans people if they can demonstrate that is absolutely necessary. For example, if inclusion would put that trans person at risk.
‘However, these exemptions are rarely used … in almost all situations trans people are treated equally as is required by our equality laws.’
The Government’s consultation to reform the Gender Recognition Act is due to launch before the summer recess, when MPs take their summer break.