The Queen’s Speech and the Equality Bill

December 3, 2008

government portcullis logoToday’s speech by the Queen focused, as you might expect, on the economy.

However, the Equality Bill did get a little mention:

My government is committed to ensuring everyone has a fair chance in life. My government will bring forward a bill to promote equality, fight discrimination and introduce transparency in the workplace to help address the difference in pay between men and women.

Of course I’m happy to hear that employers will be required to ensure equal pay between men and women, but I’m equally unhappy that there was such vagueness about the rest of it: “promote equality, fight discrimination” sounds like something from one of those old-fashioned beauty contests where the hopefuls would be asked about their ambitions – “I want to travel the world and help people, promote equality and fight discrimination”. Fine words, but what do they mean, actually?

Pink News has an interesting analysis of what will be in the Equality Bill. The full article is worth a read, but as far as I can see, there are few, if any, parts of direct relevance to this trans woman. It seems that the word ‘gender’ is taken to mean the time-honoured and oversimplified ‘difference between men and women’.

In other words, as a trans woman, I seem to be expected to subsume a major part of my identity – my ‘transness’ – and settle for being ‘just a woman’. Earlier today I had quite a sharp exchange of words with a cis woman feminist about this self-eradication and she didn’t get it either. Yes, I am a woman, but I’m also trans – a trans woman. I live with that intersectionality day in, day out – and I don’t see why I should have to hide such a big part of who I am, just because cis people are uncomfortable with my being trans.

It’s not asking for special treatment – separate is not equal (although ‘separatism’ does have an increasing appeal to me) – and it’s certainly not about tokenising or marginalising myself either. I simply want the right to be trans, to be open and honest about who I am – and still be afforded the same rights and liberties as any other woman, be she a lesbian woman, or a black woman, or a Jewish woman, and so on. It’s about recognition, acceptance – hell’s teeth, I’m not even asking (or expecting) cis people to understand – so what, exactly, is the problem here?

Anyway, back to Pink News’ report on the Equality Bill. Generally speaking:

The Bill will make it easier for people and businesses to know their rights and their obligations. It will be in plain English and will replace nine major pieces of legislation and numerous other measures, spanning some forty years.

And

[…] public bodies will need to consider how services affect a wide range of different people.

Okay, so that’s Pink News’ take on it; interesting but not really offering any useful insights on how it’s likely to affect trans people. So I think maybe it’s time for me to start digging a little deeper – chapter and verse of the bill is here

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