No, the Government didn’t just ban transgender people from public bathrooms
Recent coverage of the upcoming reform to the Gender Recognition Act that claimed that trans people will be banned from public bathrooms has been criticised by Stonewall.
The government is set to announce plans to streamline the gender recognition process to allow transgender people to more easily gain legal recognition.
However, this reform of the Gender Recognition Act been caught in a debate in regards to the rights of trans women in spaces such as bathrooms and changing rooms.
According to reports in multiple national outlets published on Monday, the upcoming reforms to the Gender Recognition Act would maintain a right for cisgender women to ban trans women from single-sex spaces, including bathrooms and changing rooms.
However, these reports have been criticised by LGBT rights groups, including Stonewall.
Paul Twocock the Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research at Stonewall, told PinkNews: “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 reports used a statement from the Government Equalities Office that confirmed that under some circumstances, it is legal to exclude transgender people from women-only services provided that it can be justified.
The Government Equalities Office said: “Providers of women-only services can continue to provide services in a different way, or even not provide services to trans individuals, provided it is objectively justified on a case-by-case basis.”
The statement was originally made on June 5 in response to a petition that sought to address concerns from trans-exclusionary groups about the impact of the reform on women’s services.
The statement did not discuss the rights of transgender women to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.
The petition, which has since been dismissed, claimed the Gender Recognition Act reform could “impact on women-only services and spaces” and challenge “the principle of single-sex spaces.”
The response from the Government highlighted that the Gender Recognition Act has no bearing on the provision of single-sex spaces or which bathrooms transgender people use, is legislated under the Equality Act.
It stated that the “Equality Act 2010 [is] the legislation that allows for single-sex spaces,” not the Gender Recognition Act – which only regulates whether transgender people can change the legal gender on their birth certificate.
Trans-exclusive campaigners have warned that gender recognition changes would impact women’s refuges, however, this has not been supported by refuge operators.
Refuges are subject to particular exclusions under the Equality Act which can allow them to exclude transgender women, though the Equality Act says that any exclusions need to be “applied as restrictively as possible.”
Many refuges are actively trans-inclusive, including domestic violence charity Women’s Aid, which began the process to allow trans women to work in their refuges based on self-identifying as a woman, rather than requiring a change to their birth certificate.
The Conservative Government has stated on several occasions that they have no plans to currently reform the Equality Act, though the Labour Party have recently made a commitment to reforming the legislation to explicitly include transgender people.
The recent coverage of the reform has been criticised by LGBT groups.
Stonewall’s Paul Twocock added: “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.
“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 and in almost all situations trans people are treated equally as is required by our equality laws.”
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Twocock went on to highlight that the UK recently dropped to fourth in the continent-wide LGBT rights index.
He said: “The UK recently dropped to fourth place in the European rankings on LGBT equality. The toxic media debate about trans people and their equality was cited as a deciding factor, along with Britain’s lack of progress on trans equality.
“We need urgent reform of the Gender Recognition Act to guarantee the safety and dignity of trans and non-binary people.”
The Government Equalities Office confirmed to PinkNews that provisions for single-sex spaces are covered by the Equality Act.