Employment Discrimination and Trans People

Dr. Stephen Whittle, PH.D. Reader in Law
Manchester Metropolitan University


Gender Dysphoria is a recognised medical condition. Those who experience the condition do not feel, on the inside, to be of the gender that their bodies are perceived to be. Many of them experience such intense and prolonged discomfort that, in adulthood, they undergo a process of gender role transition in which they express their innate gender identities and, usually, obtain medical treatment to modify their bodies accordingly. Those who experience this degree of Gender Dysphoria may be regarded as having the condition termed Transsexualism.

During and after transition, many transsexual people experience discrimination in the workplace or difficulty in obtaining employment. GIRES therefore undertook research into the nature and extent of their problems and is now publishing the results in “Employment Discrimination and Transsexual People”, a report prepared by Dr Stephen Whittle.

The report describes how, during the period 1996-99, the legal responsibility of employers to protect transsexual employees against sex discrimination in the workplace was clearly established by several test cases and new government regulations.

Based on a survey conducted in late 2000, the report states that the great majority of respondents did not feel that, aside from any difficulties created for them by other people at work, their transition had, at the time or currently, made them less able to do their jobs. Yet, the report shows that many transsexual employees were still subjected to:

  • verbal abuse and even physical violence perpetrated by other employees, as well as by customers, clients or suppliers
  • discrimination in recruitment, promotion, remuneration, benefits and other factors

Many of the transsexual employees who had recently commenced transition had been forced to leave their jobs either by their employers or because of the resultant conditions at work.

The majority of their employers were failing to:

  • include gender in the organisation’s anti-discrimination policies
  • provide their colleagues with information, support and/or training on gender identity
  • inform those colleagues that discrimination against the transsexual person would not be tolerated

Many of their employers were still not providing them with access to toilet facilities appropriate to their new gender roles.

These findings have major implications for policy makers. Although the law is now robust, employers’ practice in the workplace remains highly imperfect. Whilst there is a need for more rigorous enforcement of the law, that factor alone would be insufficient to achieve the changes in attitudes that trans people encounter daily at work, among their fellow workers as well as customers, clients and suppliers. Employers should be persuaded to educate all the people that the trans person encounters at work.

The need for action is mounting. The data gathered in the 2000 survey shows a sharp increase in the number of people commencing transition. The rapidly rising numbers of cases being referred to the Gender Identity Clinic at Charing Cross Hospital and of applications for membership of two major voluntary support organisations, The Gender Trust and FTM Network, confirm the upward trend.


GIRES wishes to record its admiration and gratitude for the skill and dedication that Dr Whittle has applied in preparing the report. The charity is also grateful to Press for Change for its collaboration in launching the survey among transsexual employees. That survey has provided much of the data used by Dr Whittle in his report. In addition, GIRES thanks the FTM Network, The Gender Trust and Gendys, as well as members of its Medical Advisory Panel, for their valuable help in distributing the survey’s questionnaire among employees within the transsexual community.

GIRES has distributed printed copies of the report free of charge to all policy makers who are in positions where they have the power to improve working conditions significantly for transsexual employees. Copies will also be provided, free of charge, to applicants who are members of the above organisations that assisted in conducting the survey. However, they and other applicants are requested to consider making a donation to GIRES to help the charity to recover the cost it has incurred in conducting the survey and publishing Dr Whittle’s report.

This document is available as a pdf which you can view online and print.

Document: Employment Discrimination and Transsexual People (PDF, 283KB)