United Kingdom

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The United Kingdom has increasingly tolerant laws and societal views towards transgenderism.

New treatment and assessment guidelines for Gender Dysphoria

New guidelines are being drawn up for the treatment of Gender Dysphoria. These guidelines will form the basis of "best practise" for the whole of the UK. The guidelines can be downloaded as a pdf file from Royal College of Psychiatrists

The English and Cross-Dressing

There is a uniquely British tradition of finding considerable hilarity in cross-dressed. This is present in many comedy sketch shows, most recently in Little_Britain, which includes specific transvestite comedy characters, but also continues the (great) British comedy tradition of portraying female characters with men.

This does have a serious side-effect for cross-dressers (transexual or otherwise) in that the instinctive reaction to a cross-dressed man in the UK is one of ridicule. This is countered by the national trait towards politeness and the usual desire to avoid causing a scene.

Obviously where young and/or drunk groups of people are involved such barriers to aggression can break down, leading to potentially ugly scenes.

Most people in Britain assume someone cross-dressed is either a transvestite or a transsexual.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 came into force in December 2003. The new regulations outlaw discrimination in employment and vocational training on grounds of sexual orientation. The legislation implements strands of the European Employment Directive.

The regulations will prohibit direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, victimization and harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation.They are aimed at providing protection in all areas of employment: during the recruitment process, in the workplace, on dismissal and, in certain circumstances, after the employment has finished.

The rules apply to terms and conditions, pay, promotion, transfers, training and dismissals.

Who is protected?

Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and heterosexuals will all be protected under the law against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.People who are discriminated against because it is assumed - incorrectly or correctly - that they are of a particular orientation will also be protected. The law also safeguards those who suffer because of the sexual orientation of their family and friends.

Under the regulations, gender reassignment is a separate issue and unrelated to sexual orientation despite a common misunderstanding that the two issues are part of the same picture. People who undergo treatment to change their sex are protected under the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) regulations 1999, which is a addendum to the Sexual Discrimination Act 1975.


The main exception to the regulations is discrimination where there is a genuine occupational requirement (GOR). For example, an organisation advising on and promoting gay rights may be able to show that it is essential to the credibility of its chief executive who will be the public face of the organisation that he or she should be gay. The sexual orientation of the holder of that post may therefore be a genuine occupational requirement.

The regulations also permit differences of treatment on grounds of sexual orientation where the employment is for the purposes of an organised religion. Any organisation wishing to rely on this provision will also need to establish that the requirement is necessary to comply with religious doctrine or to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion's followers.

The TUC is coordinating a judicial review of two exemptions to the new law that will allow discrimination on religious grounds and will deny the same-sex partners of employees the right to benefits given to married partners of staff. An initial hearing is expected early in the new year.


Individual employees can be personally liable and ordered to pay compensation to a victim of harassment.

Employers may be held liable, unless they can prove that they took reasonable steps to prevent harassment.

Actions for employers

Although it is not legally required, it is good practice for employers to have an equality policy and this should be revised in the light of these regulations. Employers should also make their staff aware, through training, circulars, contracts etc, that it is both unacceptable and unlawful to harass or victimize someone because of his or her sexual orientation.

Direct discrimination

Treating someone less favorably on the grounds of their religion or belief. Example: a person is turned down for a job simply because she mentions that her partner is a woman.

Indirect discrimination

Applying a criterion, provision or practice which disadvantages people of a particular religion or belief.

Indirect discrimination is not always unlawful. However, for it to be justified an employer would have to show there was a real business need and that there was no alternative.


Subjecting someone to unwanted conduct that violates a person's dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Example: a male worker who has a same sex partner is continually referred to by female nicknames which he finds humiliating and distressing.

A tribunal will take into account the perceptions of the person allegedly discriminated against. However, it will also test whether the action could "be reasonably considered to have caused offence".


Victimizing someone who has or intends to seek recourse under the regulations or someone who has or intends to give evidence in relation to a complaint of discrimination. Example: denying someone promotion because they supported an employee who took that employer to an Employment Tribunal on grounds of discrimination over sexual orientation. In certain circumstances discrimination or harassment could occur after the working relationship has ended. For example: a discriminatory job reference.

Notable British Transgender People

See Also

This page was originally authored by members of Susan's Place Wiki Staff.