Nicky Morgan: Protect trans business owners from being involuntarily outed

Nicky Morgan is MP for Loughborough, chair of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee and former Minister for Women and Equalities. Here, she explains why she wants to close a Companies House loophole that could potentially out transgender people’s transitions against their will.

One of the best things about being a minister is having the opportunity to find out more about other people’s lives and concerns. During my time as Minister for Women and Equalities, I was privileged to be able to work closely with the transgender community on a national level to learn more about the inequalities they face and how these inequalities affect their daily lives.

When I left office in 2016, I was acutely aware that, whilst the government had taken a number of steps to tackle these inequalities, many loopholes remained, and that, for every loophole, a trans person can worry that something will inadvertently reveal their transition, potentially exposing them to unfairness, violence and discrimination.

Of course, some trans people are quite comfortable telling their own stories and many are doing inspirational advocacy work across our society to break down barriers and tackle stigma and discrimination about transgender issues.

However, I recognise that, for others, their transition and history are very personal and something that they want to choose to share, rather than be forced to do so by someone else.

Therefore, when I was approached by Alex, a company director, about an issue with Companies House which had the potential to inadvertently “out” transgender directors, I knew that this was a loophole that needed to be closed.

The potential for inadvertent disclosure comes about because of a conflict between the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Companies Act 2006. Whilst the former generally prohibits the publication of protected information held on a transgender person, the latter requires the Companies Registrar to make available to the public all information held on the public register. Therefore, by complying with one Act, Companies House would be in breach of the other.

“[For some people] their transition and history are very personal and something that they want to choose to share, rather than be forced to do so by someone else.”

— Nicky Morgan MP

Following a number of discussions with ministers about this, I decided to introduce the Companies Documentation (Transgender Persons) Bill to parliament which would have closed this loophole. However, unfortunately, this didn’t make progress due to the 2017 General Election, and so I subsequently led an adjournment debate and held further meetings with ministers in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to press for action to be taken.

Trans activists sue Tennessee for refusing gender change on birth certs

Trans flag. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty)

New bill to protect trans company directors

So, I’m really delighted to read the proposal in the government’s recently published consultation on Corporate transparency and register reform to introduce a new administrative procedure which would allow transgender directors to apply to Companies House to have their previous name hidden on company filings and replaced with a new name.

This is a sensible way to help close this loophole and show that the government remains committed to both protecting the transgender community and allowing trans people to choose what, if any, information about their transition is publicly available, and in what way such information is disclosed.

There is, clearly, a compelling case for change and I hope that this step forward is welcomed and supported by the transgender community.  If you’d like to add your support then you can respond to the consultation here.