Transgender or "trans" are terms used to describe people who don't conform to the traditional genders of male or female.

"Trans" can include cross-dressers, people who wear a mix of clothing, people with a dual or no gender identity, and transsexual people.

Practicalities for trans carers or carers of trans people

Trans people who live permanently in their preferred gender often face immense difficulties throughout their lives, with family and friends, carers, employers and sometimes government bodies and health and care providers.

Trans people may have particular needs regarding privacy, for example, because they may fear that transitioning to their acquired gender may put their career at risk.

Some who transitioned many years ago "pass" in public life as non-trans people, while others living permanently in their new gender are clearly trans people to those they communicate with.

Trans people often have complex gender identities and assumptions should not be made about an individual's identity. It is always best to ask if you are not sure.

Sexual orientation

Although many transgender people identify as heterosexual in their preferred gender role, an almost equal number identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB). However you or the person you care for identify, trans people will have some legal issues in common with LGB people, particularly in relation to discrimination.

Gender recognition rights

Full legal recognition to person's acquired gender was set out in the Gender Recognition Act 2004. According to the act, a person can apply to be recognised in their chosen gender if they are living permanently in their acquired gender role, and intend to do so permanently for the remainder of their life. Surgical procedures are not a pre-requisite for this gender recognition.

The act also affords trans people privacy rights (section 22). This means that any professional person who passes on information about a trans person's history without consent can be fined or even imprisoned. The only exception is when medical professionals have to pass on information when the person is unable to give consent.

Trans people themselves have no obligation to disclose whether they have a gender recognition certificate.

If you are caring for a trans person who does not yet have a gender recognition certificate, you should still keep what you know about them private, unless they specifically instruct you otherwise.

What gender recognition means

Obtaining a gender recognition certificate means that you will be given a new birth certificate (if you were born in the UK).

Once you (or the person you care for) has a certificate, you (or they) must be treated as the new gender for all legal purposes. This includes recognition of the new gender for marriage and civil partnership.

It is also unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a worker on the grounds of gender reassignment. This includes people who:

  • intend to undergo reassignment
  • are undergoing reassignment
  • have undergone reassignment in the past

Trans people also have protection under the Sex Discrimination Act (1975) from being treated less favourably than other workers. This includes protection from harassment, both by the employer and by colleagues. If you are harassed, you may be able to bring a claim to an employment tribunal.

Care for older trans people

Older trans people who need care are more likely to have complex social or bodily needs relating to their gender reassignment treatments. For this reason, social or health care professionals may need support from other specialist colleagues. However, they should not do so without first obtaining permission from the cared-for person to share information about them.

Most care services are provided by, or on behalf of, the local authority and/or primary care trust. They should be able to provide trans people with details of what services are available and their eligibility criteria. These organisations should also have equal opportunities, anti-bullying and confidentiality policies that anyone can ask to see. If they do not include trans people in their remit, then the authority should be able to say how these policies would apply to trans people.

If you are looking after a trans person who needs sheltered housing or residential care, it is important to do plenty of research on the options they might consider, including visiting potential homes.

Because of the specific personal needs or wants, which may be related to being trans, they might want to consider making an advance decision in the event that they become incapable of caring for themselves, or consenting to treatment.

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Page last reviewed: 09/05/2012


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