Civil servants feel ‘degraded’ by gender critical staff group and ‘horrifying’ draft gender policy

A trans person working in the civil service is concerned he could be outed at work following the leak of ‘horrifying’ draft guidelines.

The 39-page draft proposes “changes on access to toilets” that would mean only trans people with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) could use certain single-sex facilities, such as toilets. 

As few as one per cent of trans people in the UK are estimated to have a GRC. 

The proposed guidance, first reported by VICE News, would impact the approximately half a million people who work for the UK Civil Service, who are politically impartial workers integral in functioning the government’s various departments.

One trans civil servant, who requested anonymity, told PinkNews that the leak has left him fearing he could be outed.

He has only come out as trans to his line manager, and not his colleagues. Because he doesn’t have a GRC, he fears that if the policy went into effect, management “up the line” could force him into the wrong bathroom, outing him to his workplace.

You may like to watch

“I’m literally just somebody trying to work a job, just keep my head down,” he said. “This guidance, potentially just on the geography of a building, could out me.”

“It could be down to people’s individual line managers. If someone’s got a gender-critical line manager, that could be the difference between offices to how far this guidance is implemented.”

In response to the document leaking, a Cabinet Office spokesperson told PinkNews: “This is a draft document and not Civil Service HR policy.” It’s understood the draft has not been seen by ministers.

Legal experts previously told PinkNews that trans people do not need a GRC to use the toilets or other single-sex spaces that align with their authentic self

The purpose of a GRC is simply to allow trans people to have their gender correctly recorded on birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates. Only trans men and women can obtain a GRC, with non-binary people unable to obtain legal recognition of their gender. 

The trans civil servant, who works in admin, said that being outed would present another potential risk to his safety. His job entails working with high-risk individuals who may have been convicted of hate crime.

“Again, it would be outing me if I was forced to use women’s toilets because of this guidance, and that’s therefore going to out me to a whole group of people who are more of a risky person to be around than the average person,” he said. 

“It could be somebody in my office or our office that has been convicted of a hate crime against people like me, and I’m potentially going to have to out myself in the workplace. 

“It seems so hostile. I want to be charitable and say it seems ill thought out, but it seems hostile.”

Gender critical civil service staff network is another cause for concern

The draft guidance was produced by the Cabinet Office and the Government People Group.

However, both the trans civil servant and another LGBTQ+ person working in civil service, who also requested to remain anonymous, raised concerns about a gender-critical employee network known as SEEN.

SEEN says it is “committed to promoting and supporting sex equality and equity” in the workplace. Its core view is “that biological sex is binary and immutable, that biological sex matters for both women and men in our everyday lives, including for our rights and needs in the workplace, and that biological sex must not be conflated with, or replaced by, the concepts of gender or gender identity”.

The LGBTQ+ civil servant PinkNews interviewed said the trans community has long feared that SEEN “would get a foot in the door”. PinkNews has seen no evidence that SEEN influenced the draft guidelines, but a section on protecting gender-critical beliefs would certainly benefit its members.

“The Department acknowledges that some employees believe that a person’s biological sex is immutable,” the draft guidance states. 

“Employees that hold this belief must be treated with respect and dignity and protected from bullying, harassment and discrimination in the same way that they are expected to treat intersex, non-binary and transgender colleagues.”

The LGBTQ+ civil servant said: “I think there’s a lot of sympathy for them [SEEN] further up in the Cabinet Office – that’s just my personal view. While it’s not surprising, it’s really degrading having an anti-trans network.”

They noted that SEEN interviewed a detransitioner for its website, and linked to what she described as a “far-right website” as part of that.

“It’s not just a degrading thing. I do feel anxious every time I’m in the office now,” they continued.

“I’m lucky because my government department, I think they are working really hard to stay inclusive… but I know that other colleagues within my department and the wider civil service don’t have that same privilege, particularly outside of London. 

“Nonetheless I recognise that, if this anti-trans policy is implemented, where does that leave me and my relationship with my immediate manager? Are they going to start mandating that I start [using another toilet]? And how does that create an inclusive atmosphere, let alone a workplace that isn’t degrading?” 

The LGBTQ+ civil servant said they came out because they were “tired of living a lie” and that being “open and authentic … in the civil service was just so amazing”. 

Now, they’re left feeling constantly tired.

“I have a need to go speak to my union, I have to work out: is my union rep is gender-critical? If I’m getting a new director general, you do your research. Is this person gender-critical? It’s exhausting. It’s really tiring.”

Draft civil service gender policy ‘would be illegal’

While the guidelines are merely a draft at this point, many have been keen to point out that any implementation would appear to go against the Equality Act 2010.

Trans Activism UK told PinkNews the draft guidelines would “not only [be] illegal in their proposed practices” but also “reek of internal biases being translated into dangerous propaganda that has no place in the civil service”.

“The proposed draft guidelines would foster a hostile environment for trans employees and be in direct conflict with the civil service’s published values of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality,” the grassroots group said. 

“The civil service cannot embody these values while simultaneously proposing such guidance. A hostile environment is not conducive and will only cause anxiety and fearfulness amongst staff.

“The civil service should be a leader in excellent work practices and this will undermine the values that the civil service has been claiming to exhibit.”

Trans Activism UK says the proposed guidance would “harm not only trans people within the civil service but also affect how civil servants should act towards the general trans community as well as the wider public and stakeholders”.

In 2022, Jolyon Maugham, a barrister and director of the Good Law Project, said that any attempt to restrict bathroom access by GRC ownership would not stand up in court.

“If you look at the Equality Act it describes the protection for transgender people in terms that are not synonymous with the Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC),” he said.

“In other words, the protection extends to those living in a gender other than that assigned at birth. So it’s just wrong to describe the protection as only extending to those who have a GRC.”

PinkNews contacted SEEN for comment.

Please login or register to comment on this story.