EHRC report calls for more research on transgender issues

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has launched a report into the experiences of trans people.

Titled the Trans Research Review, the paper looks at transphobia, including bullying and discriminatory treatment, in schools and other public services.

It also covers harassment, rejection and physical or sexual assault from families, work colleagues and friends.

The paper draws together a wide variety of small research studies on trans issues but points out the difficulties of identifying and studying the trans population.

Some issues highlighted were the fact that many transitioned people no longer see themselves as part of the trans community and the difficulties of including transvestites and intersex people who may not feel they are trans.

There is no question on gender identity in the UK census, while the report also criticised official surveys or documents including trans status with sexual orientation. Current figures suggest there are between 65,000 and 300,000 trans people in the UK, although it is not clear how ‘trans’ was defined.

Another problem cited was that respondents were usually found through gender identity clinics, which does not include the large numbers of trans people who are not receiving medical treatment.

The paper set out a number of areas which needed more research. One was the use of the internet as a community for trans people, while another was the seemingly disproportionate number of trans people in prison.

In terms of the attitudes of non-trans people, the survey cited 2006 research from Scotland which found that 50 per cent of respondents would be unhappy if a close relative had a relationship with a trans person. Thirty per cent of those questioned said a trans person should not be a teacher.

A 2003 survey of 1,700 people found that many respondents viewed trans people “with pity”, and in the same way they viewed disabled people.

However, 2008 research in the north-west of England found that only 14 per cent of people felt negatively about trans people, with the vast majority saying they felt neutral or positive.

Small studies have found that the majority of trans people have faced harassment or violence due to their trans status.

A 2008 study of 71 people found that 44 (62 per cent) had been subjected to harassment from strangers in public places. Of these, only 15 per cent had reported the harassment to police.

Just under 17 per cent said they had suffered violence, although 22 per cent said they had never been perceived as trans by strangers.

There was no research on incidences of domestic or sexual violence suffered by trans people.

As with other areas, very little research on trans pupils was found, although it was suggested that 75 per cent of trans students face bullying compared with 25 per cent of lesbian, bisexual or gay students.

The report found that trans people were likely to be working below their capabilities. Trans women reported particular issues with bathroom facilities, while a number of trans men said they were given less demanding work to do after returning to employment as men.

“Considerable” levels of discrimination in the workplace were cited, while research found that trans people were more likely than the general population to struggle with paying bills and debt.

The EHRC concluded: “The review reveals that there is a case for UK-wide quantitative and qualitative study on the economic position, experiences and needs of the trans population. The absence of such evidence means that the correct support, funding, services and policies, are not in place for trans people.”

Recommendations of the report include assessing whether current equality legislation is suitable for trans people, assessing the impact of transphobia and commissioning more independent research on trans experience.

To read the full report, click here