Ask the Lawyer: Can I get in trouble at work for being a male cross-dresser?
PinkNews brings you the latest in a series of features which sees your real questions answered by leading lawyers at Simpson Millar.
The question comes from a reader who is a male cross dresser, and wonders what employment legislation could protect him against discrimination at work.
He asks: “I am a male cross-dresser, but not transgender. I want to understand what the boundaries of transgender employment legislation are and I want to know if I am allowed to cross-dress at work?”
A Simpson Millar lawyer answers, saying: “The Equality Act 2010 is the relevant legislation that provides protection for individuals who are subject to less favourable treatment – such as discrimination – on any of the following grounds:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage/civil partner status
- Sexual orientation
The most important part of your question is that you state that you are not transgender.
If you are not contemplating transitioning to become a female, but are interested in cross-dressing at work, sadly the legislation at present does not go so far as offering protection against any discrimination linked to cross-dressing.
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But, if you were thinking of transitioning in the future, then you would fall within the ‘bracket’ of gender reassignment for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010, which is defined as: “Proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.”
There is clearly a gap in the equality legislation at present, as it does not offer protection to those who, like you, are not transgender but would like to cross-dress at work. The law in this area is in dire need of change, to extend the protection and include cross-dressing for those who would like to do this. Whilst the current equality law does not afford such protection, there are increasing reports of discrimination in the workplace linked to cross-dressing.
In more practical terms, it’s a good idea to speak to a member of your HR department about your situation and find out what type of support they can offer you before you make any decisions. If you decide to cross-dress at work and experience any form of bullying or harassment from your colleagues, you have the option of raising a grievance with HR. Unfortunately, from a legal perspective, there isn’t much else you can do under the current legislation.
If you’d like to speak to one of Simpson Millar’s Employment Law experts about this in more depth, feel free to get in touch with us on 0800 260 5005 or click here to request a call-back.
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