Should Trans People have Equal Rights Purely on the basis of their self-declared gender?
This issue came up recently in January 2024 in the case of Rachel Meade versus Westminster Council.
Rachel Meade is a social worker who works for Westminster Council. She recently posted content on Facebook which criticised the idea that society should just accept trans’ people’s self-declarations of their own gender, irrespective of their biological sex.
Specifically, she was critical of the idea that individuals who are biologically male but declaring themselves female should be allowed the same rights as people whose sex is biologically females.
Context: Criticising changes to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act
The 2004 Gender Recognition Act states that society only needs to recognises a transgender person’s self-declared gender if they have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and consulted with two medical professionals.
Recently, it was proposed to change this so that social institutions should recognise a transgender person’s self-declared gender purely on the basis of that self-declaration. That is, without any formal medical consultations.
Rachel Meade had been critical of these proposed changes, pointing out that social institutions had encouraged the following:
- allowing trans women who are biologically male to enter female only public spaces such as changing rooms and toilets.
- encouraging schools to support pupils transitioning without informing their parents.
- some police forces had recorded crimes as being committed by women when the perpetrators were biologically male.
One of Meade’s Facebook ‘friends’ informed Westminster Council of the above, arguing her views were discriminatory against Trans people. Westminster Council responded by ‘bullying’ Meade into silence, but she fought back with the help of Social Work England.
Last week the courts found that Westminster Council had discriminated against Meade by not allowing her to express her gender critical beliefs. They also found that her specific content on Facebook had not discriminated against Trans people as it wasn’t demanding the removal of rights just on the basis of people being Trans. Rather her arguments were nuanced, referring to the belief that Trans people should only be granted equal rights if their gender-identity had been sanctioned by professionals.
Should there be some limits to Trans rights…?
Gender identity is a protected characteristic under the 2010 equality act, so on that basis Trans people have the right to freedom of expression and gender recognition based on their own interpretation of their gender.
However the problem is when we look at the rights of Trans women (who are biologically men) to enter female only spaces, especially those where women may be vulnerable.
Examples where this doesn’t seem to make sense would be domestic violence support groups for women, and medical settings where women may only want to be seen by a Doctor is biologically female.
If social institutions were to allow and support trans people to have full equal rights in their institutional settings this would deny vulnerable women the right to be seen by someone who is their own sex.
This is a tricky issue and an evolving one. At the very least I think professionals need to be allowed freedom of speech to contribute openly to the debate!
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