House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee Transgender Inquiry: A critique

The report of the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee Transgender inquiry contains much to welcome. It highlights the discrimination, harassment and violence experienced by too many transgender people and exposes the need to improve transgender people’s confidence in the criminal justice system. It makes important recommendations to ensure that transgender people receive the healthcare that they need and are treated with dignity and respect throughout the health service. It identifies the failure to implement the 2011 Advancing Transgender Equality Plan and recommends a new strategy. All these represent important steps in improving the lives of transgender people in the UK.

Unfortunately however the report, and the inquiry process that led to it, contain many serious shortcomings. Several of the recommendations of the inquiry, taken together, would undermine women only services. If these recommendations were adopted this would mean that women’s refuges, rape crisis centres and prisons would have no way of preventing someone who was born male and identified as a man from accessing their services so long as he said he identified as a woman. There is already evidence that this is happening in the prison service. None of the specialist women’s services on whose work these recommendations would impact took part in any oral hearings. Concerns that were raised about potential impact on women only services were referred to briefly in the report but there was no attempt to address the arguments behind them.

The report contains a number of additional flaws. It fails to properly define the group whose needs are the subject of the inquiry, it presents as uncontested a number of claims which are either subject to debate or appear demonstrably incorrect and it fails to address a range of concerns raised by individuals and groups submitting evidence, including transgender people themselves.

Terminology

The inquiry report states that ‘each of us is at birth assigned a sex (male or female) based on our physical characteristics’. It would be more accurate to say that for the vast majority of people, with the exception of intersex people, our sex at birth is recognised based on our physical characteristics. Humans, in common with all other mammals, are sexually dimorphic. The use of the term ‘assigned’ implies that there is something arbitrary about the process by which sex in babies is recognised. The fact that some individuals experience dysphoria so severe that it is necessary for them to transition to the gender with which they identify does not negate the existence of biological sexual differences between women and men.

It is not at all clear how the report is using the term ‘trans’. It appears to encompass people who ‘have a gender identity which differs from their (assigned) birth sex’, people whose identity is ‘located at a (fixed or variable) point along a continuum between male and female’ and people who are ‘non gendered’. The report also refers to people who are ‘gender variant’ that is whose ‘behaviour and interests [..] are outside what is considered “normal” for a person’s assigned (biological) sex’. This last group would seem to include anyone who does not conform to sexual stereotypes, the majority of whom would not consider themselves to be trans. This lack of clarity is a reflection of the wide range of identities, forms of presentation and behaviour that have been described as ‘trans’. However it makes it difficult to know which groups of people are being referred to at various points in the report.

Contested and inaccurate claims

Numbers

The report states that ‘current estimates indicate that some 650,000 people’ (1% of the population) are “likely to be gender incongruent to some degree”. Two submissions to the enquiry from the Gender Identity Research and Education Service (GIRES) are cited in support of this claim. The second argues that a recent survey by the EHRC found that ‘1% of the population met the criteria to be protected by the ‘gender reassignment’ characteristic’[i]. This refers to a Technical note: measuring gender identity, produced by the EHRC.[ii]

However the findings of the EHRC survey were significantly more complicated than this. Respondents were asked five questions. The first three related to identity, these were: a ‘standard’ gender question (are you male/female?), how they were described at birth (male, female, intersex, prefer not to say) and how they thought of themselves (male, female, in another way). The majority of respondents gave either all ‘male’ answers (49.1%) or all ‘female’ answers (50.1%). Of the other 0.8%, just under 0.4% thought of themselves ‘in another way’. These respondents gave a range of preferred terms including transgender, genderqueer, gender- fluid, some combination of male and female, gender neutral, genderless, a person, human, normal, androgyne and neither/none suggesting that at least some respondents rejected a notion of gender identity altogether. Just under 0.4% gave a combination of male and female in answer to the three questions. However the authors point out that not all of these people can be considered trans. Most of them (24 people) changed their answers between the standard question (are you male/female?) and the second two questions, answering male at first and then female to the other two or vice versa. This means that they answered that they were born male and identified as male or born female and identified as female.  Of these 24 people only one said that they had thought about, were taking or had taken any action to change their sex to match their gender identity. This leaves 0.15% of people (ten male at birth and five female) who said that they were described as one sex at birth but identified as the other.

The second set of questions related to transition. They were ‘Have you gone through any part of a process (including thoughts or actions) to change from the sex you were described as at birth to the gender you identify with, or do you intend to? (This could include changing your name, wearing different clothes, taking hormones or having gender reassignment surgery)’. Respondents answering ‘yes’ were then asked which best described them, (‘I am thinking about going through this process, I am currently going through this process, I have already been through this process, I have been through this process, then changed back, None of the above,  prefer not to say’). A final question asked those who answered yes to the question about transition which term describes how they thought about themselves, (Trans man, Trans woman, Transsexual person, Gender variant person, Cross dressing/ transvestite person, Intersex person, In another way or prefer not to say).

100 people (1% of the sample)  gave the answer ‘yes’ when asked if they had gone through any part of the process to change from the sex they were described at birth to the gender they identify with. This figure appears to be the basis on which GIRES make the claim that 1% ‘fit the gender reassignment characteristic’. However 83% of these people gave all ‘male’ or all ‘female’ answers to the previous three questions, i.e. they described themselves as identifying with the same gender as their sex at birth. This suggests some confusion about what the question meant. Only 31% of those who described their gender ‘in another way’ answered yes to this question. Of the ten people who said they were described as male at birth but identified as female only 4 answered ‘yes’ to the question about transition. None of the people who said they were described as female but identified as male answered yes. Again this suggests that there may be some confusion among respondents about what the questions meant: the majority of those who answered ‘yes’ to the question about transition (which included thinking about transition) did not have a gender identity that differed from their birth sex, and only a minority of those who had a gender identity that differed from their birth sex had thought about or taken action to change from their birth sex to the gender they identified with. As a proportion of all respondents 0.17% of people said they were thinking of going through a process of transition, 0.2% were going through a process of transition and 0.17% had been through a process of transition (0.54%) with the rest preferring not to say or answering ‘none of the above’.

The answers to the final question about transgender identities were varied. This question was only asked of those who answered yes to the question about transition; 98 people responded. Of these 7% described themselves as a trans man, 8% as a transwoman, 7% as a transsexual person, 7% described themselves as gender variant, (a total of 29% of those answering or 0.29% of the total respondents). Another 17% described themselves as transvestite or cross dressing, suggesting that the ‘changes’ they referred to were limited to dress rather than a more fundamental transition. 29% described themselves ‘in another way’ including ‘human’, ‘normal’ ‘myself’ and 27% preferred not to say. The EHRC argue that this variety ‘makes these results difficult to interpret’. With this in mind it is hard to be confident that the 1% figure cited by GIRES is accurate.

Other data cited by the GIRES comes from research in the Netherlands and Belgium which identifies two groups, those with an ambiguous identity (which GIRES describe as non binary) and those with an incongruent identity (which GIRES describe as trans).  Between 2.2 % and 4.6 % of natal men, and 1.9 % and 3.2 % of natal women reported an ambivalent gender identity. Between 0.7 % and 1.1 % of natal men and 0.6 % and 0.8 % of natal women reported an incongruent gender identity. However a closer analysis of the Netherlands research shows that it does not specifically ask people how they identify – rather it asks both men and women how they ‘experience themselves’ on two scales, one as a man and one as a woman, on five points from not at all to completely. Those with an ambivalent identity reported experiencing themselves equally as a man and as a woman, those with an incongruent identity ‘experienced themselves’ less as the sex they were born in than the other sex. The research does not appear to distinguish between those people who were answering in terms of their identity and those who were answering in terms of how they placed themselves on a scale of masculinity/femininity; (that is in terms of the interests, behaviour and presentation that might be socially expected for men and women),  but who identified with their birth sex. Furthermore the researchers point out that the survey only had a 20.9% response rate and that those who chose to participate in a survey on sexuality and relationships might not be representative of the general population which limits the generalisability of the results.

In view of this it is hard to see how the figure of 650,000 people given in the report is sustainable.

Age at which a gender recognition certificate can be granted

The report cites submissions arguing in favour of lowering the age at which a gender recognition certificate can be granted. It quotes Peter Dunne who argues that ‘recent evidence suggests that young individuals hold a stable gender identity from early childhood’. This claim runs counter to the evidence that the majority of children with ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ will grow up to identify with their birth sex. At no point during the report are the implications of this evidence discussed, indeed the evidence itself is not referred to at any point during the report. This is despite the fact that the submission from the Tavistock clinic, which is referred to at some length elsewhere in the report makes it clear that the majority of children with gender identity disorder will not grow up to be transgender adults.

Single sex services

The report concludes that the discretion to exclude transpeople from accessing or working at single sex services should not apply where a transperson has a Gender Recognition Certificate because a decision to exclude in these cases unlikely to be proportionate. The equality act permits such exclusion in certain circumstances but only if it is a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim. The conclusion that exclusion of a transperson with a GRC is unlikely to be proportionate is based on a legal opinion provided by Claire McCann who was an advisor to the committee. However the opinion was based on the assumption that people who had a Gender Recognition Certificate had gone through the process currently required by the Gender Recognition Act. The committee has also recommended changing the Gender Recognition Act to make application for a GRC a process of self certification. This would mean that there would be no requirement for a person to suffer from gender dysphoria, or a requirement to have lived in their acquired gender for two years and no panel process to test whether the application was genuine. A person could be born male, identify, live and present as a man and still be entitled to a GRC so long as they declared that they identified as a woman, even if this was not the case. In such circumstances it is hard to see how a decision to exclude such a person could never be considered proportionate.

Treatment of children

On the treatment of children the report concludes that ‘there is a clear and strong case that delaying treatment risks more harm that providing it. The treatment involved is primarily reversible, and the serious dangerous consequences of not giving this treatment, including self harm and suicide are well attested. Accordingly, we recommend that, in the current review of the service specification and protocol for the Gender Identity Development Service, consideration be given to reducing the amount of time for the assessment that service users must undergo before puberty blockers and cross sex hormones can be prescribed.’

However the written evidence from the Tavistock clinic recognises that ‘Although pubertal suppression, cross-sex hormones and gender reassignment are generally considered safe in the short term, the long-term effects regarding bone health and cardiovascular risks are still unknown’. In an interview with the Guardian Dr Polly Carmichael, the consultant clinical psychologist who leads the Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service, argued that: “The blocker is said to be completely reversible, which is disingenuous because nothing’s completely reversible. It might be that the introduction of natal hormones [those you are born with] at puberty has an impact on the trajectory of gender dysphoria.” Her colleague Dr Bernadette Wren argued that “We have shifted to make the treatment available earlier and earlier. But the earlier you do it, the more you run the risk that it’s an intervention people would say yes to at a young age, but perhaps would not be so happy with when they move into their later adulthood.”

This suggests that puberty blocking treatment, far from being reversible and guaranteeing positive outcomes, may in fact lead to further problems later in life as young adults regret the decisions they made as children. Both puberty supressing treatment and cross sex hormone carry long term health risks. Some of the known risks of cross sex hormones include mood swings, increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and loss of fertility. It is widely recognised that there is insufficient evidence to show what the long term consequences of a life time on hormones might be. There is no evidence in the report that these risks were considered before the committee made its recommendations.

At the same time it is not clear that these treatments will improve outcomes for children presenting with gender identity disorders. The report accepts uncritically the argument from the organisation Mermaids that high levels of mental distress, self-harm and suicide among transgender young people will be alleviated by medical treatment in the form of puberty blockers and cross sex hormones. However there is little evidence that this is the case. The report refers to a Dutch study of 55 young people, cited by the Tavistock clinic in its submission, which appeared to show the benefits of early intervention. However the Tavistock submission makes clear that these findings ‘those young people who achieve good outcomes are more likely to be those who have experienced life-long gender non conformity and who start off with significant social advantages: chiefly, the absence of any serious psychological difficulties and the presence of strong family support’ and that ‘this is not the profile of a high proportion of GIDS clients’. The written evidence from the Tavistock clinic concludes that ‘the research evidence for the effectiveness of any particular treatment offered is still limited’.

Prisons

The report states that ‘there is a clear risk of harm, (including violence, sexual assault, self harming and suicide) where trans prisoners are not located in a prison or other setting appropriate to their acquired/affirmed gender’. This implies that trans prisoners should be housed in line with their stated gender identity rather than their biological sex, regardless of whether they have a gender recognition certificate. One of the cases cited in support of this conclusion is that of Joanne Latham who committed suicide in November 2015. However it is not at all clear whether Latham’s suicide was the result of being held in a man’s prison – Latham had only recently changed to a female name, had not requested a transfer to a women’s prison and had a history of mental illness. Latham was an extremely violent offender serving a series of life sentences, including for two attack on fellow inmates and was judged so dangerous that he had to be handcuffed to two nurses when seeing a lawyer. He had not had any hormonal treatment or surgery. The inclusion of Latham’s case suggests that the committee is suggesting that an extremely violent offender, who has undergone no process of transition, should be moved to a women’s prison immediately on announcing that they wish to be known as a woman. There is no discussion in the report of the possible dangers this might pose to women prisoners, nor how these should be addressed.

Two bodies representing gender identity specialists who take referrals from prisoners gave written evidence to the committee raising concerns about a number of sex offenders who the organisations believed were claiming to be trans when they did not in fact identify as women. According to the British Psychological Society the reasons for this were:

  • As a means of demonstrating reduced risk and so gaining parole;
  • As a means of explaining their sex offending aside from sexual gratification (e.g. wanting to ‘examine’ young females);
  • As a means of separating their sex offending self (male) from their future self (female);
  • In rare cases it has been thought that the person is seeking better access to females and young children through presenting in an apparently female way.

The British Association of Gender Identity Specialists warned of:

‘The ever-increasing tide of referrals of patients in prison serving long or indeterminate sentences for serious sexual offences. These vastly outnumber the number of prisoners incarcerated for more ordinary, non-sexual, offences. It has been rather naïvely suggested that nobody would seek to pretend transsexual status in prison if this were not actually the case. There are, to those of us who actually interview the prisoners, in fact very many reasons why people might pretend this. These vary from the opportunity to have trips out of prison through to a desire for a transfer to the female estate (to the same prison as a co-defendant) through to the idea that a parole board will perceive somebody who is female as being less dangerous through to a [false] belief that hormone treatment will actually render one less dangerous through to wanting a special or protected status within the prison system and even (in one very well evidenced case that a highly concerned Prison Governor brought particularly to my attention) a plethora of prison intelligence information suggesting that the driving force was a desire to make subsequent sexual offending very much easier, females being generally perceived as low risk in this regard’.

The evidence from BAGIS is briefly referred to in passing in the report; ‘the press have reported cis-gendered males claiming to be trans in order to obtain privileges and Dr Barrett of BAGIS suggested that their might also be other more varied and sometimes sinister motives’. It goes on to dismiss these concerns, citing the Prison reform trust who ‘felt that the number of prisoners in this situation and the challenges they posed, might have been exaggerated’. However the Prison Reform Trust’s comments specifically related to press reports of prisoners who wished to ‘live in role’; living as a woman in a men’s prison. Their submission did not address the particular concerns raised by the BAGIS of prisoners who were claiming to be trans in order to transfer to a women’s prison. Aside from this very brief mention there is no discussion of the concerns raised by either of the two organisations, nor of the implications that the committee’s proposals might have on the safety of women prisoners.

[i] http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/women-and-equalities-committee/transgender-equality/written/18922.pdf

[ii] http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/documents/technical_note_final.pdf

Briefing for parliamentary debate on the recommendations of the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee Transgender Inquiry: The danger of unintended consequences

Summary

  • The report of the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee Transgender inquiry contains a number of welcome recommendations to improve the lives of transgender people in the UK.
  • Transgender people should have the same rights as anyone else to be free from discrimination, to access the services that they need and to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • However there are a series of recommendations in the report which, which, taken together, risk unintended consequences for the safety and wellbeing of women and girls.
  • Adopting these recommendations would mean that violent male offenders could demand access to women only spaces and services such as refuges, rape crisis centres and prisons simply by claiming to identify as a woman, whether or not this was the case.
  • There is already evidence that this is happening in the prison service in the UK.
  • There is evidence from both the UK and internationally of people who were born male entering women only spaces dressed as women and going on to assault women.
  • Whether or not these offenders are transgender is irrelevant since the recommendations in the report would facilitate this type of offending by making access to women only spaces dependent on an individual’s declaration that they identify as a woman with no need for any process of social or medical transition.
  • The report also makes recommendations to reduce the assessment time before puberty blockers and cross sex hormones can be prescribed to children.
  • Around 80% of children who present with Gender Identity Disorder (GID) go on to identify as their birth sex as adults. This would suggest the need for caution rather than encouraging early transition, particularly in view of the long term health risks of cross sex hormones.
  • Trans people have the right to access the services that they need and there are real concerns about the safety of transwomen in particular if they are housed in the mainstream prison population in line with their biological sex. However the Committee’s recommendations in these areas are not the best way to address these issues and threaten the safety and wellbeing of women and girls.

Recommendations of the Transgender Equality Inquiry

The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published the report of its Transgender Equality Inquiry in December 2015[i]. The report contains much to welcome. It highlights the discrimination, harassment and violence experienced by too many transgender people and exposes the need to improve transgender people’s confidence in the criminal justice system. It makes important recommendations to ensure that transgender people receive the healthcare that they need and are treated with dignity and respect throughout the health service. It identifies the failure to implement the 2011 Advancing Transgender Equality Plan and recommends a new strategy. All these represent important steps in improving the lives of transgender people in the UK.

However the report also contains a series of recommendations which taken together would have unintended consequences for the safety and wellbeing of women and girls. These are:

  • To ‘bring forward proposals to update the Gender Recognition Act, in line with the principles of gender self-declaration that have been developed in other jurisdictions’
  • ‘that the Equality Act be amended so that the occupational requirements provision and / or the single-sex / separate services provision shall not apply in relation to discrimination against a person whose acquired gender has been recognised under the Gender Recognition Act 2004’[ii]
  • That ‘the protected characteristic in respect of trans people under the Equality Act should be amended to that of “gender identity’

 

Amending the requirements of the Gender Recognition Act

At present the Gender Recognition Act allows for a transgender person to be granted a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) if they are: over 18, diagnosed with gender dysphoria, have lived as their new gender for 2 years and intend to continue to do so and apply successfully to the Gender Recognition Panel. There is no need for the transgender person to have had surgery or other medical treatment. Once a person has a gender recognition certificate they legally become their ‘acquired gender’.

The Committee recommends that the Gender Recognition Act be changed in line ‘with the principles of self-declaration that have developed in other jurisdictions’ to become an ‘administrative process centred on the wishes of the individual applicant[iii].

It is not clear exactly what this ‘administrative process’ would involve but it is likely to be based on models developed in other countries where all that is required is a signed statement of intent to live permanently as their acquired gender witnessed by a solicitor or commissioner for oaths[iv].

This would means that it would be possible for someone who was born male and had gone through no process of social or medial transition to legally declare themselves to be a woman. There are people who were born male and identify as female but have no wish to transition through surgery, hormones or other medical intervention. Some of these people may choose to present as male, while identifying as female[v]. There are others who identify as both male and female, sometimes presenting as male and sometimes as female.

Since there is no way to tell if someone genuinely identifies as a woman this would include people who were born male, actually identified as a man, but claimed to identify as a woman. Both the British Psychological Society and the British Association of Gender Identity Specialists raised concerns that this was already happening in prison in their evidence to the Transgender Equality Inquiry (see section on prisons below).

The proposals to amend the Gender Recognition Act are particularly concerning when combined with the proposals to amend the exemptions in the Equality Act for single sex services.

Removing the exemption for single sex services and employment in the Equality Act

The Equality Act allows for single sex services in certain limited circumstances if they are ‘a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim’. It allows for discrimination on grounds of gender reassignment in provision of single sex services if this is a ‘proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim’. The Guidance on the Act gives an example specifically relating to women only services:

A group counselling session is provided for female victims of sexual assault. The organisers do not allow transsexual people to attend as they judge that the clients who attend the group session are unlikely to do so if a male-to-female transsexual person was also there. This would be lawful.[vi]

 The Equality Act also allows for certain jobs to only be open to members of one sex if there is a ‘genuine occupational requirement’. This can include specifying a women only job is not open to transwomen as one of the examples in the Guidance for the Act makes clear:

A counsellor working with victims of rape might have to be a woman and not a transsexual person, even if she has a Gender Recognition Certificate, in order to avoid causing them further distress.[vii]

It should not be hard to understand why a woman who has been a victim of sexual violence might not want to take part in a group therapy session with or receive counselling from someone who they consider to be male, regardless of whether that person identifies as a woman[viii].

The Committee recommends ‘that the Equality Act be amended so that the occupational requirements provision and / or the single-sex / separate services provision shall not apply in relation to discrimination against a person whose acquired gender has been recognised under the Gender Recognition Act 2004’. In support of this recommendation it cites a legal opinion provided by Claire McCann who was an advisor to the committee that excluding someone with a GRC would not be proportionate. However the committee has also recommended amending the Gender Recognition Act to make application for a GRC a process of self -certification. This would mean that there would be no requirement for a person to suffer from gender dysphoria, or a requirement to have lived in their acquired gender for two years and no panel process to test whether the application was genuine. A person could be born male, identify, live and present as a man and still be entitled to a GRC so long as they declared that they identified as a woman, even if this was not the case. In such circumstances it is hard to see how a decision to exclude such a person could never be considered proportionate.

This proposal would prevent women only services from excluding transwomen who had a GRC even if that meant that other women would not access the service, or if this risked women’s safety. It is clear from the EHRC advice in this area that the current exemption in the Equality Act does not permit a blanket ban on transgender people accessing single sex services. The exemption applies in situations like group counselling where other women might not access services if there was a transwoman present. There are rape crisis centres which provide help line support and one to one counselling to transwomen but do not invite them to take part in group therapy because this would prevent other women from taking part in the group. This might be a particular problem if the transwoman concerned continues to present as male. This policy balances the rights of transwomen who have experienced sexual violence to get support they need with the rights of other women to get the support they need. This policy would be illegal under the committee’s proposals.

Any policy has to be proportionate and relate to specific circumstances such as where the inclusion of transgender people might prevent others from accessing the service.

Taken together with the proposals to change the Gender Recognition Act this would mean that women only services would be obliged to offer services to people who were born male and presented as male, so long as they certified that they identified as women, regardless of the impact that this would have on other women accessing their services.

Extending the coverage of the Equality Act

The Women and Equalities Committee has recommended that: ‘the protected characteristic in respect of trans people under the Equality Act should be amended to that of “gender identity”.

The Equality Act does not provide protection to transgender or gender variant people who are not proposing to undergo, under-going or have undergone the process of gender reassignment (the definition of gender reassignment in the Act). Furthermore that the Act does not cover people ‘who do not identify exclusively as male or female’ or people who do not live permanently within their preferred presenting gender role or intersex people. There are people who were born male and identify as female but have no wish to transition through surgery, hormones or other medical intervention. Some of these people may choose to present as male, while identifying as female.[ix] There are others who identify as both male and female, sometimes presenting as male and sometimes as female. A major study of transgender people in the US found that 18% said that ‘they did not want to live full time in a gender other than that assigned at birth’ and concluded that

For many gender non-conforming people, transition as a framework has no meaning in expressing their gender — there may be no transition process at all, but rather a recognition of a gender identity that defies convention or conventional categories. For yet other gender non-conforming people, transition is a meaningful concept that applies to their journey from birth sex to their current identity, which may not be male or female.[x]

The Gender Identity Research and Information Service states that 650,000 people (1% of the population) are ‘gender incongruent to some degree’ [xi] and that of these a fifth might be expected to seek medical treatment for gender dysphoria, based on Dutch research that showed that 19% of men who cross dressed wanted ‘a complete role adaptation’[xii]. This would suggest that the majority of people categorised as ‘trans’ do not wish to permanently transition to live as the opposite gender to their biological sex.

There are two issues here. The first is the right of people who do not exclusively identify or live as male or female to be free from discrimination simply because of their transgender status. For example if a job was open to both women and men it would be wrong for a person who did not identify exclusively as either to be unfairly discriminated against in the recruitment process. Similarly it would be wrong for most goods and services that are open to the general community to be denied to a person simply because they did not identify as male or female or identified as both. However in the vast majority of cases people are not discriminated against because of how they identify, but because of how they present. Employers or service providers may discriminate against somebody they believe to be male who is dressing in clothes that they associate with women for example. This is a form of sex discrimination, based on the assumption that certain clothes and hairstyles or the wearing of make-up are only appropriate for women. Protection against this sort of discrimination should exist regardless of whether or not the person concerns identifies as a woman.

The second, more complex issue, relates to employment, goods or services that are only open to one sex. The law protects the rights of someone with gender dysphoria who wishes to transition to live permanently as a woman to be treated as a woman in most circumstances, and to be legally recognised as a woman through applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate. However should someone who was born male, sometimes or mostly presents as male but identifies as female automatically be entitled to access services aimed at or reserved for women? Should an organisation that provides services to women victims and survivors of violence be obliged to provide services to a person who sometimes identifies as male because they also sometimes identify as female? If the organisation does provide such a service would they be obliged to provide it at times when the person was presenting as male? How would that impact on the willingness of the other women who need those services to access them? This question becomes particularly problematic when combined with the proposal to remove the exemption in the Equality Act for single sex services.

Prisons

The report states that ‘there is a clear risk of harm, (including violence, sexual assault, self-harming and suicide) where Trans prisoners are not located in a prison or other setting appropriate to their acquired/affirmed gender’. This implies that Trans prisoners should be housed in line with their stated gender identity rather than their biological sex, regardless of whether they have a gender recognition certificate.

One of the cases cited in support of this conclusion is that of Joanne Latham who committed suicide in November 2015. However it is not at all clear whether Latham’s suicide was the result of being held in a man’s prison – Latham had only recently changed to a female name, had not requested a transfer to a women’s prison and had a history of mental illness. Latham was an extremely violent offender serving a series of life sentences, including for two attack on fellow inmates and was judged so dangerous that he had to be handcuffed to two nurses when seeing a lawyer. He had not had any hormonal treatment or surgery. The inclusion of Latham’s case suggests that the committee is suggesting that an extremely violent offender, who has undergone no process of transition, should be moved to a women’s prison immediately on announcing that they wish to be known as a woman. There is no discussion in the report of the possible dangers this might pose to women prisoners, nor how these should be addressed.

Two bodies representing gender identity specialists who take referrals from prisoners gave written evidence to the committee raising concerns about a number of sex offenders who the organisations believed were claiming to be Trans when they did not in fact identify as women. According to the British Psychological Society the reasons for this were:

  • As a means of demonstrating reduced risk and so gaining parole;
  • As a means of explaining their sex offending aside from sexual gratification (e.g. wanting to ‘examine’ young females);
  • As a means of separating their sex offending self (male) from their future self (female);
  • In rare cases it has been thought that the person is seeking better access to females and young children through presenting in an apparently female way.

The British Association of Gender Identity Specialists warned of:

‘The ever-increasing tide of referrals of patients in prison serving long or indeterminate sentences for serious sexual offences. These vastly outnumber the number of prisoners incarcerated for more ordinary, non-sexual, offences. It has been rather naïvely suggested that nobody would seek to pretend transsexual status in prison if this were not actually the case. There are, to those of us who actually interview the prisoners, in fact very many reasons why people might pretend this. These vary from the opportunity to have trips out of prison through to a desire for a transfer to the female estate (to the same prison as a co-defendant) through to the idea that a parole board will perceive somebody who is female as being less dangerous through to a [false] belief that hormone treatment will actually render one less dangerous through to wanting a special or protected status within the prison system and even (in one very well evidenced case that a highly concerned Prison Governor brought particularly to my attention) a plethora of prison intelligence information suggesting that the driving force was a desire to make subsequent sexual offending very much easier, females being generally perceived as low risk in this regard’.

The evidence from BAGIS is briefly referred to in passing in the report; ‘the press have reported cis-gendered males claiming to be trans in order to obtain privileges and Dr Barrett of BAGIS suggested that their might also be other more varied and sometimes sinister motives’. It goes on to dismiss these concerns, citing the Prison reform trust who ‘felt that the number of prisoners in this situation and the challenges they posed, might have been exaggerated’. However the Prison Reform Trust’s comments specifically related to press reports of prisoners who wished to ‘live in role’; living as a woman in a men’s prison. Their submission did not address the particular concerns raised by the BAGIS of prisoners who were claiming to be Trans in order to transfer to a women’s prison. Aside from this very brief mention there is no discussion of the concerns raised by either of the two organisations, nor of the implications that the committee’s proposals might have on the safety of women prisoners.

Treatment of children

On the treatment of children the report concludes that ‘there is a clear and strong case that delaying treatment risks more harm that providing it. The treatment involved is primarily reversible, and the serious dangerous consequences of not giving this treatment, including self harm and suicide are well attested. Accordingly, we recommend that, in the current review of the service specification and protocol for the Gender Identity Development Service, consideration be given to reducing the amount of time for the assessment that service users must undergo before puberty blockers and cross sex hormones can be prescribed.’

However the written evidence from the Tavistock clinic recognises that ‘Although pubertal suppression, cross-sex hormones and gender reassignment are generally considered safe in the short term, the long-term effects regarding bone health and cardiovascular risks are still unknown’. In an interview with the Guardian Dr Polly Carmichael, the consultant clinical psychologist who leads the Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service, argued that: “The blocker is said to be completely reversible, which is disingenuous because nothing’s completely reversible. It might be that the introduction of natal hormones [those you are born with] at puberty has an impact on the trajectory of gender dysphoria.” Her colleague Dr Bernadette Wren argued that “We have shifted to make the treatment available earlier and earlier. But the earlier you do it, the more you run the risk that it’s an intervention people would say yes to at a young age, but perhaps would not be so happy with when they move into their later adulthood.”

This suggests that puberty blocking treatment, far from being reversible and guaranteeing positive outcomes, may in fact lead to further problems later in life as young adults regret the decisions they made as children. Both puberty supressing treatment and cross sex hormone carry long term health risks. Some of the known risks of cross sex hormones include mood swings, increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and loss of fertility. It is widely recognised that there is insufficient evidence to show what the long term consequences of a life time on hormones might be. There is no evidence in the report that these risks were considered before the committee made its recommendations.

At the same time it is not clear that these treatments will improve outcomes for children presenting with gender identity disorders. The report accepts uncritically the argument from the organisation Mermaids that high levels of mental distress, self-harm and suicide among transgender young people will be alleviated by medical treatment in the form of puberty blockers and cross sex hormones. However there is little evidence that this is the case. The report refers to a Dutch study of 55 young people, cited by the Tavistock clinic in its submission, which appeared to show the benefits of early intervention. However the Tavistock submission makes clear that these findings ‘those young people who achieve good outcomes are more likely to be those who have experienced life-long gender non conformity and who start off with significant social advantages: chiefly, the absence of any serious psychological difficulties and the presence of strong family support’ and that ‘this is not the profile of a high proportion of GIDS clients’. The written evidence from the Tavistock clinic concludes that ‘the research evidence for the effectiveness of any particular treatment offered is still limited’.

Conclusions

There is a real need to ensure that Trans people have access to the services that they need, including services that are currently provided on a single sex basis. There are justifiable concerns about the safety of Trans people if they are housed in the main prison population based on their biological sex. These needs and concerns must be properly and sensitively addressed. However, the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee fail to recognise the very real risk of unintended consequences for women and girls as a result of their recommendations. There appears to have been no assessment of the impact of these recommendations on women and girls as required by the Public Sector Equality Duty.

We ask that Parliament request that the Committee revisits these recommendations, consults properly with women’s organisations and develops a new set of proposals that do not have these unintended consequences.

 

 

[i] House of Commons, Women and Equalities Committee, Transgender Equality, First Report of Session 2015-16 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmwomeq/390/390.pdf

[ii] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmwomeq/390/390.pdf

[iii] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmwomeq/390/390.pdf

[iv] See for example the application process used in the Republic of Ireland

[v] See for example Danielle Muscato who presents as male but identifies as a woman https://www.facebook.com/daniellemuscato.page/?fref=nf or VarmitCayote https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=MORAczk_m9w&app=desktop

[vi] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/pdfs/ukpgaen_20100015_en.pdf

[vii] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/pdfs/ukpgaen_20100015_en.pdf at 789

[viii] http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/02/when-i-was-raped-it-was-female-only-spaces-helped-me-recover

[ix] See for example https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=MORAczk_m9w&app=desktop

[x] Grant, J, Mottet, L, Tanis, J, Min, D, Harrison, J, Herman, J and Keisling, M, Injustice at Every Turn: Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, The National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce. Available on line at: http://www.thetaskforce.org/static_html/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_full.pdf

[xi] http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/women-and-equalities-committee/transgender-equality/written/19292.pdf

[xii] http://www.gires.org.uk/assets/Medpro-Assets/GenderVarianceUK-report.pdf

Women only spaces and proposed changes to the Equality Act and Gender Recognition Act

This briefing analyses proposals made by the Parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee Transgender Equality Inquiry which would remove protections for women only spaces. It first sets out the need for women only spaces before going on to describe the current legal situation. It then details the proposals for changes to the law that have been made by the Committee and identifies the ways in which these would reduce the protection for women only spaces and in some cases risk women’s safety.

The importance of women only services and spaces

A research report by the Women’s Resource Centre found that women only services and spaces provided women with physical and emotional safety which made them feel supported, comfortable and able to express themselves in a way they could not in mixed spaces.

In a survey of 1000 women carried out for the report the Women’s Resource Centre found that:

  • 97% of respondents stated that a woman should have the choice of accessing a women-only support service if they had been the victim of a sexual assault.
  • 56% of women would choose a women-only gym over a mixed gym, 28% of women would choose to go to a mixed gym (16% didn’t know).
  • The 560 women that would choose a women-only gym cited reasons such as feeling more comfortable, less self-conscious and less intimidated. Respondents stated that they didn’t want men watching them, looking at their bodies or sexually harassing them.
  • 90% of women polled believed it was important to have the right to report sexual or domestic violence to a woman (such as a woman Police officer);
  • 87% thought it was important to be able to see a female health professional about sexual or reproductive health matters;
  • 78% thought it was important to have the choice of a woman professional for counselling and personal support needs.

Transwomen and women only spaces

Many women and women’s organisations welcome transwomen into women only spaces.  However there are circumstances where some organisations believe that it is not appropriate to include transwomen in women only spaces. For example, the prison service places transwomen prisoners with a Gender Recognition Certificate in a women’s prison but not other transwomen prisoners, except in some circumstances. A rape crisis centre may provide helpline or other support to transwomen but conclude that group therapy sessions should not be open to transwomen because other women may be less likely to take part if there is a transwoman in the group. A women’s refuge may decide not to house transwomen in shared accommodation with other women. The law allows for this.

All transgender people should have the right to live their lives without violence, harassment or discrimination and should have the right of access to appropriate healthcare and other services. It is wrong if someone is denied employment, housing or access to services just because they are transgender. Transwomen (and men) who have experienced sexual or domestic violence need access to appropriate services and it is important that these services are available.

However transwomen may have specific service needs that differ from those of other women. There are situations such as women only domestic and sexual violence services where women surviving in crisis may be particularly vulnerable. Some of these women may feel unable to access services provided by or offered jointly to all women including transwomen; this produces a clash with the rights of transwomen to be treated exactly the same as other women.  In such cases when the safety, wellbeing and recovery of women are reliant upon their ability to access services the law has created exemptions to allow for women only services that do not include some transwomen, in some circumstances.  In these situations other services should be provided to ensure that transwomen’s needs are met. This may be through separate services provided by women’s organisations or through specialist services designed to meet the specific needs of transwomen.

The law as it currently stands

The law distinguishes between transgender people who have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) and those who do not have a GRC but still have the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. It does not cover other people who might identify as transgender or trans (for example people who do not define as having a gender, or people who have complex gender identities and identify as both male and female or neither male nor female).

Gender Recognition Act 2004

The Gender Recognition Act allows for a transgender person to be granted a GRC if they are over 18, have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, have lived as their new gender for 2 years, intend to continue to do so, and apply successfully to the Gender Recognition Panel. There is no need for the transgender person to have had surgery. In such cases:

Where a full gender recognition certificate is issued to a person, the person’s gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender (so that, if the acquired gender is the male gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a man and, if it is the female gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a woman (Gender Recognition Act 2004 9.1).

However the Equality Act does create exemptions to this in the provision of single sex services (see below).

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act outlaws discrimination in employment or access to goods or services on the grounds of a series of ‘protected characteristics’ including gender reassignment. Gender reassignment is defined as follows:

A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is 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 (Equality Act 2010 7.1).

Single sex services

The Equality Act allows for single sex services if they are ‘a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim’ and if mixed services would be less effective; if a person of one sex might reasonably object to the presence of a person of the opposite sex or if there is likely to be physical contact between the person receiving the service and someone else who might reasonably object. It allows for discrimination on grounds of gender reassignment in provision of single sex services if this is a ‘proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim’. The Guidance on the Act gives an example specifically relating to women only services:

A group counselling session is provided for female victims of sexual assault. The organisers do not allow transsexual people to attend as they judge that the clients who attend the group session are unlikely to do so if a male-to-female transsexual person was also there. This would be lawful (p157).

 Employment

The Equality Act also allows for certain jobs to be open to members of only one sex if there is a ‘genuine occupational requirement’. This can include specifying a women only job is not open to transwomen as one of the examples in the Guidance for the Act makes clear:

A counsellor working with victims of rape might have to be a woman and not a transsexual person, even if she has a Gender Recognition Certificate, in order to avoid causing them further distress (p167).

Limited exemptions

These are not general exemptions for all single sex services. The EHRC guidance on the law states that:

A service provider may have a policy about providing its service to transsexual users, but this policy must still be applied on a case-by-case basis. It is necessary to balance the needs of the transsexual person for the service, and the disadvantage to them if they are refused access to it, against the needs of other users, and any disadvantage to them, if the transsexual person is allowed access. To do this may require discussion with service users (maintaining confidentiality for the transsexual service user). Care should be taken in each case to avoid a decision based on ignorance or prejudice.

An organisation that provides a women only service that is not open to transwomen must be able to justify this on the specific needs of their service users and show that the decision is proportionate to the situation. A women only service cannot simply decide not to provide services to transwomen; they must be able to demonstrate that the decision is legitimate and proportionate. The EHRC also states that:

Where a transsexual person is visually and for all practical purposes indistinguishable from someone of their preferred gender, they should normally be treated according to their acquired gender unless there are strong reasons not to do so.

Prisons

The Equality Act, including the exemptions for single sex services, applies to prisons. The Ministry of Justice has published guidelines on The Care and Management of Transgender Prisoners which state that ‘An establishment must permit prisoners who consider themselves transsexual and wish to begin gender reassignment to live permanently in their acquired gender’ but that ‘In most cases prisoners must be located according to their gender as recognised under UK law’.  This means that in most cases transwomen prisoners without a GRC would be housed in a men’s prison while transmen without a GRC would be housed in a women’s prison. However there is some flexibility to allow transgender prisoners without a GRC to be housed in a prison which matches their gender identity where a case conference and risk assessment deem this appropriate. For those with a GRC:

A male to female transsexual person with a gender recognition certificate may be refused location in the female estate only on security grounds – in other words, only when it can be demonstrated that other women with an equivalent security profile would also be held in the male estate.  In such circumstances she will be considered a female prisoner in the male estate and must be managed according to PSO 4800 Women Prisoners.

The definition of ‘transsexual’ in these guidelines is broader than that in the Equality Act as it covers all those ‘who consider themselves transsexual’ rather than being limited to those who are preparing to, currently undergoing or have under gone gender reassignment.

These guidelines are currently under review.

Proposals for changes to the law

This briefing examines proposals to change the law made by the Women and Equalities Committee. It focuses on three proposals:

  • To ‘bring forward proposals to update the Gender Recognition Act, in line with the principles of gender self-declaration that have been developed in other jurisdictions’;
  • That ‘the protected characteristic in respect of trans people under the Equality Act should be amended to that of “gender identity’;
  • That ‘the Equality Act be amended so that the occupational requirements provision and/or the single-sex/separate services provision shall not apply in relation to discrimination against a person whose acquired gender has been recognised under the Gender Recognition Act 2004’.

1. Amending the requirements of the Gender Recognition Act

The Committee recommends that:

Within the current Parliament, the Government must bring forward proposals to update the Gender Recognition Act, in line with the principles of gender self-declaration that have been developed in other jurisdictions. In place of the present medicalised, quasi-judicial application process, an administrative process must be developed, centred on the wishes of the individual applicant, rather than on intensive analysis by doctors and lawyers (p14).

The Gender Recognition Act currently requires a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and evidence that a person has lived for two years as the gender with which they identify before they can apply for a gender recognition certificate. There is no requirement to have sex reassignment surgery in order to apply for a GRC. There is a strong case for amending the Gender Recognition Act to cover people with intersex conditions, who are not currently covered by the Act.

The Committee’s proposed amendments to the Act would mean that someone who was born male and had gone through no social or medical transition of any kind could legally declare themselves to be a woman, through a simple administrative process. Since there is no way to tell if someone genuinely identifies as a woman, this would include people who were born male, actually identify as a man, but claim to identify as a woman.

Both the British Psychological Society and the British Association of Gender Identity Specialists presented evidence to the Committee that their members were reporting a number of cases in prisons where male sex offenders were ‘falsely’ claiming to be transgender. According to the British Psychological Society the reasons for this were:

  • As a means of demonstrating reduced risk and so gaining parole;
  • As a means of explaining their sex offending aside from sexual gratification (e.g. wanting to ‘examine’ young females);
  • As a means of separating their sex offending self (male) from their future self (female);
  • In rare cases it has been thought that the person is seeking better access to females and young children through presenting in an apparently female way.

The British Association of Gender Identity Specialists warned of:

The ever-increasing tide of referrals of patients in prison serving long or indeterminate sentences for serious sexual offences. These vastly outnumber the number of prisoners incarcerated for more ordinary, non-sexual, offences. It has been rather naïvely suggested that nobody would seek to pretend transsexual status in prison if this were not actually the case. There are, to those of us who actually interview the prisoners, in fact very many reasons why people might pretend this. These vary from the opportunity to have trips out of prison through to a desire for a transfer to the female estate (to the same prison as a co-defendant) through to the idea that a parole board will perceive somebody who is female as being less dangerous through to a [false] belief that hormone treatment will actually render one less dangerous through to wanting a special or protected status within the prison system and even (in one very well evidenced case that a highly concerned Prison Governor brought particularly to my attention) a plethora of prison intelligence information suggesting that the driving force was a desire to make subsequent sexual offending very much easier, females being generally perceived as low risk in this regard.[i]

There is no reference to these cases in the Committee’s report.  Nor does the report set out what safeguards could be put in place to prevent this happening more often once applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate became an administrative process of self-declaration. This is deeply troubling for anyone concerned about preventing violence against women. If sex offenders are already falsely claiming to be transgender under the current system, there is a real risk that this pattern may become more widespread once it is possible to obtain a GRC through self certification. If the proposals to reduce the protection in the Equality Act for women only spaces (see below) were also adopted then these people would be legally entitled to enter women’s refuges, rape crisis centres and other places providing support to already vulnerable women.

2. Extending the coverage of the Equality Act

The Women and Equalities Committee has recommended that: ‘the protected characteristic in respect of trans people under the Equality Act should be amended to that of “gender identity” (p27).

The Equality Act does not currently provide protection to transgender or gender variant people who are not proposing to undergo, undergoing, or have undergone the process of gender reassignment (the definition of gender reassignment in the Act). Furthermore, the Act does not cover people ‘who do not identify exclusively as male or female’ or people who do not live permanently within their preferred presenting gender role or intersex people. There are people who were born male and identify as female but have no wish to transition through surgery, hormones or other medical intervention. Some of these people may choose to present as male, while identifying as female. There are others who identify as both male and female, sometimes presenting as male and sometimes as female. A major study of transgender people in the US found that 18% said that ‘they did not want to live full time in a gender other than that assigned at birth’ and concluded that

For many gender non-conforming people, transition as a framework has no meaning in expressing their gender — there may be no transition process at all, but rather a recognition of a gender identity that defies convention or conventional categories. For yet other gender non-conforming people, transition is a meaningful concept that applies to their journey from birth sex to their current identity, which may not be male or female.

The Gender Identity Research and Education Society states that 650,000 people (1% of the population) are ‘gender incongruent to some degree’ (p1) and that of these a fifth might be expected to seek medical treatment for gender dysphoria, based on Dutch research that showed that 19% of men who cross dressed wanted ‘a complete role adaptation’ (p12). This would suggest that the majority of people categorised as ‘trans’ do not wish to permanently transition to live as the opposite gender to their biological sex.

There are two issues here. The first is the right of people who do not exclusively identify or live as male or female to be free from discrimination simply because of their transgender status. For example, if a job was open to both women and men it would be wrong for a person who did not identify exclusively as either to be unfairly discriminated against in the recruitment process. Similarly, it would be wrong for most goods and services that are open to the general community to be denied to a person simply because they did not identify as male or female or identified as both. However in the vast majority of cases people are not discriminated against because of how they identify, but because of how they present, and how they are perceived by others. Employers or service providers may discriminate against somebody they believe to be male who is dressing in clothes that they associate with women for example. This is a form of sex discrimination, based on the assumption that certain clothes and hairstyles or the wearing of make-up are only appropriate for women. Protection against this sort of discrimination should exist regardless of whether or not the person concerns identifies as a woman.

The second, more complex, issue relates to employment, goods or services that are only open to one sex.  The law protects the rights of someone with gender dysphoria who wishes to transition to live permanently as a woman to be treated as a woman in most circumstances, and to be legally recognised as a woman through applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate. However should someone who was born male, sometimes or most of the times presents as male, but identifies as female, automatically be entitled to access services aimed at or reserved for women, as in the case of this person who presents as male and identifies as female who responded to an invitation to women to ask questions at a meeting? For example, if an employer identifies that there is a problem with a lack of women in senior positions in their organisation and organises a programme to support women employees into management positions, should a person who was born male and presents as male professionally be allowed to take part in that programme because they sometimes identify and present as female?  Should an organisation that provides services to women victims and survivors of violence be obliged to provide services to a person who sometimes identifies as male because they also sometimes identify as female? If the organisation does provide such a service would they be obliged to provide it at times when the person was presenting as male? How would that impact on the willingness of the other women who need those services to access them? This question becomes particularly problematic when combined with the proposal to remove the exemption in the Equality Act for single sex services.

3. Removing the exemption for single sex services in the Equality Act

The Committee recommends  that:

The Equality Act be amended so that the occupational requirements provision and / or the single-sex / separate services provision shall not apply in relation to discrimination against a person whose acquired gender has been recognised under the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

This proposal would prevent women only services from excluding transwomen who had a GRC even if that meant that other women would not access the service, or if this risked women’s safety. It is clear from the EHRC advice in this area that the current exemption in the Equality Act does not permit a blanket ban on transgender people accessing single sex services. Any policy has to be proportionate and relate to specific circumstances such as where the inclusion of transgender people might prevent others from accessing the service.

Taken together with the proposals to change the Gender Recognition Act this would mean that women only services would be obliged to offer services to people who were born male and presented as male, so long as they certified that they identified as women, regardless of the impact that this would have on other women accessing their services.

There are particularly serious implications for residential settings such as women’s refuges and women’s prisons.  These services are segregated by sex in part to protect women from violence from men. This is not because all men are violent but because men are significantly more likely to commit acts of violence than women. A major Swedish study of all transsexual people in Sweden over thirty years concluded that transwomen ‘retained a male pattern regarding criminality’ including for violent crime. This suggests that transwomen are as likely to commit acts of violence as men, meaning that the risk they pose to women is the same.

In addition, there is a real risk of violence from men who may not identify as women, but either dress in women’s clothes or present as transgender in order to facilitate offending.  The evidence that this is already happening in prisons is set out above. There have already been cases where men have presented as women or claimed to be trans in order to access women only services and gone on to abuse women. Examples include Christopher Hambrook, who was convicted in 2014 for sexual assaults on women in two shelters in Toronto which he had entered having claimed to be a transwoman; Madison Hall, a convicted murderer who was transferred to a women’s prison after saying he identified as a woman and went on to rape several women inmates; and Joel Hardman, who was arrested after disguising himself as a woman in order to enter women’s toilets in Birmingham. It is often claimed that there is no evidence that transwomen have attacked women in women only spaces despite a large number of well documented cases. It is not clear whether the offenders in these cases actually identified as women or were men who dressed as women or claimed to be trans to facilitate offending. However under the proposals made by the Women and Equalities Committee this is irrelevant, since anyone who claims to identify as a woman could legally become one and have full access to women’s services.