The Equality Act and gender diversity

 Human gender identity and gender expression come in a multitude of forms, and not everyone is unambiguously female or male. How people perceive their gender can be seen as a grade on a scale: people may identify as male or female, or something in between. Some do not identify as being part of the traditional classification of male or female at all. That is why verbal expressions and classification do not easily fit in with real life. On an individual level the classification mainly depends on how each person perceives their gender.

Discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression

The reformed Equality Act, which took effect on 1 January 2015, acknowledges gender diversity. The Equality Act prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.  The Act also obligates authorities, education providers and employees to prevent discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.

In the Equality Act, the phrase 'gender identity' refers to an individual's experience of their own gender, while the phrase 'gender expression' refers to expressing one's gender through clothing, behaviour, or by other means. The regulations on discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression are also applied to discrimination which is based on the fact that an individual's physical gender-defining characteristics are not unambiguously female or male.

Gender minorities include trans people, such as transsexual, non-binary gender (transgender) and transvestite people, as well as intersexual people.

Transsexual people do not feel like they belong to the gender that they were assigned at birth. This contradiction can be corrected with e.g. hormonal treatment and surgery if needed. Medical gender reassignment treatment is not always possible, however, and sometimes the person does not want to have treatment.

The gender reassignment process is a stage when the transsexual person receives medical gender reassignment treatment, if they so wish, their legal gender and name is changed, and they live according to their own gender identity.

Transvestites are people who also want to express the other gender in their personality. The majority are men who sometimes like to bring out their feminine side by dressing and acting like women.

Non-binary gender (transgender) are people who live on the border of, between or outside of manhood and womanhood. A transgender (non-binary gender) person can feel genderless, of an undefined gender, or have their own combination of characteristics, style and personality traits which are seen as male or female. Some transgender people require similar treatment as transsexual people in order to get their body to match their gender identity.

Intersexuality is a congenital condition where the physical gender-defining characteristics of a person are not unambiguously female or male. Gender assignment and surgery which is done when the child is very young and without asking the child's opinion may lead to violation of child's physical integrity.

The Equality Act, discrimination and gender diversity (STM, 2016)