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Knowing your rights

The Equality Act 2010 is designed to protect (most) trans people from discrimination – although the wording means that some trans people may not be explicitly covered by its definition. It states:

‘To be protected from gender reassignment discrimination, you do not need to have undergone any specific treatment or surgery to change from your birth sex to your preferred gender. This is because changing your physiological or other gender attributes is a personal process rather than a medical one. You can be at any stage in the transition process – from proposing to reassign your gender, to undergoing a process to reassign your gender, or having completed it.’

Discrimination is defined in the Equality Act as:

‘When you are treated differently because you are transsexual, in one of the situations that are covered by the Equality Act. The treatment could be a one-off action or as a result of a rule or policy. It doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful.’


Your rights

Under the Equality Act you are protected from discrimination:

  • When you are in the workplace.
  • When you use public services like health care (e.g. visiting your GP or local hospital) or education (e.g. your school or college).
  • When you use businesses and other organisations that provide services and goods (like shops, restaurants, and cinemas).
  • When you use transport.
  • When you join a club or association (e.g. your local tennis club); and
  • When you have contact with public bodies like your local council or government departments


How can you be discriminated against?

There are four main types of discrimination:

Direct discrimination
This means treating one person worse than another person because of a protected characteristic (e.g. gender reassignment). For example, someone refusing you a hotel room because of your gender status.

Indirect discrimination
This can happen when an organisation puts a rule or a policy or a way of doing things in place which has a worse impact on someone with a protected characteristic than someone without one. For example, when a new block is built at school and there are no options for gender-neutral toilets.

This means people treating you in a way that violates your dignity, or creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. For example, bar staff make derogatory and offensive comments about a person because of the way they look which upset and offend them. 

This means people treating you unfairly if you are taking action under the Equality Act (like making a complaint of discrimination), or if you are supporting someone else who is doing so. For example, an employee makes a complaint of sexual harassment at work and is dismissed as a consequence.


Further Advice

If you think you might have been treated unfairly and want further advice you can contact the Equality Advisory Support Service.

  • Freephone 0808 800 0082
  • Textphone 0808 800 0084

Or write to them at

  • Freepost Equality Advisory Support Service FPN4431

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has also produced a range of legal guidance on the Equality Act which you can find on their website.


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