Trans Staff and Students in Higher Education

The following information, from the Equality Challenge Unit’s publication Trans staff & students in Higher Education provides an introduction to the law and looks at some of the practical issues relating to trans staff and students.

It is estimated that there are 300,000 trans people in the UK, 80 per cent of whom were assigned as male at birth. If we assume a more equal gender balance among trans people, estimates rise to nearly 500,000. Not all these people will transition, but in the future between 50,000 and 90,000 are expected to present themselves for medical assistance. Some trans people have transitioned and gained legal recognition of their preferred gender without medical assistance.

Given the estimated numbers of trans people in the UK, universities are likely to have trans people among their staff and students. When a university has a member of staff or student who is transitioning or has transitioned to their preferred gender, a number of issues will arise, many of them underpinned by legislation.

What the law says

The Equality Act 2010 strengthens and streamlines previous equalities legislation. The Act offers more far-reaching protection from discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment than previous equality law as it protects:

  • Trans people who are not under medical supervision
  • People who experience discrimination because they are perceived to be trans
  • People from discrimination by association because of gender reassignment. For example, it would protect the parents of a trans person from being discriminated against because their child is transitioning.

Further information on the law can be found in the Equality Challenge Unit’s publication Trans staff & students in Higher Education

Practical issues

The following highlight some of the practical issues that may relate to trans people. They are taken from the Equality Challenge Unit’s publication Trans staff & students in Higher Education which contains more extensive information on a wide range of issues such as pensions, sports, degree certificates and name changes.

Accommodation

Where accommodation is provided for students, every effort should be made to be flexible and treat issues raised by trans students with sensitivity and consideration.

When a student applies for accommodation and advises that they are transitioning, or intend to transition once at the institution, it is advisable to formally agree the point at which they will begin to live day-to-day in their acquired gender. This will enable the correct form of accommodation to be allocated from the start.

For students who begin to transition when living in accommodation, contracts should be flexible to allow students to leave single-sex accommodation when they begin to live in their chosen gender. Where accommodation is provided privately, the institution should ensure the providers have suitable processes in place to support transitioning students.

Confidentiality  

Confidentiality is crucial. In specified circumstances, the Gender Recognition Act prohibits disclosure of the fact that someone has applied for a gender recognition certificate (GRC), or disclosure of someone’s gender before the acquisition of a GRC. Such disclosure constitutes a criminal offence liable to a fine.

Records  

No records should be changed without the permission of the staff member or student concerned. If an individual discloses their status as a trans person, or gives notification of their intent to transition during their employment or education, the institution will need to agree with them the date from which their gender is changed on all personnel/student records and public references, such as identification passes, library cards, contact details, email addresses, formal records, website references, pay roll details and so on.

Students: Particular consideration should be given to agreeing the date from which a student applicant’s name and gender will change at the pre-enrolment stage, ensuring that UCAS or other application forms are amended. This will enable all subsequent identification to be produced accordingly. The applicant will need to notify the student loans company and other funding bodies to ensure payment and enrolment records match.

Staff: Changes to academic biographies should be discussed with the individual. The institution should issue a letter to the individual confirming the changes to be made and the date of change, as well as the name of the person to contact if they experience any difficulties in the course of their contact with the institution.

Subject to the agreement of the individual, and with the exception of degree certificates and pension schemes, a written notification of intent to transition is sufficient for the gender and name on staff and student personnel and academic records to be changed. This is necessary to enable the person to go about their daily life as a staff member or student without their birth gender being known. Asking a trans person to provide medical evidence of transition before changing their name and gender on records is not recommended, as not all trans people opt for medical assistance.

It is very important to ensure a trans person’s file reflects their current name and gender. Any material that needs to be kept that is related to the person’s trans status, such as records of absence for medical assistance, birth certificate and documentation of name change, should be placed in a sealed envelope and attached to a new file with instructions such as, ‘Confidential: Personnel manager only’ or ‘Confidential: Head of student services only’. The personnel manager or head of student services should allow staff to view the information only if they require it to perform their specific duties and with the permission of the person concerned.

When a trans person receives a gender recognition certificate, they have the right to request that all references to their former name and gender are removed from old records to ensure their former identity is not revealed. All records held on paper file must be found and replaced with new records, and relevant information transferred to a new cover. For example, a person’s old birth certificate will need to be replaced with their new one; if the person has changed their name, their original offer letter will need to be replaced with an offer letter in their new name. Nothing should remain on the file that would disclose to a third person that a change has occurred.

In order for these changes to take place, it may be necessary to discuss with others in the institution the fact that a person is transitioning. However, it is essential that the individual grants permission before their status is discussed with others.

Further information can be found in the Equality Challenge Unit’s publication Trans staff & students in Higher Education