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NEU statement on transphobia

A clear expression of the union’s commitment to protecting trans members from harassment and offensive conduct.

Definition of transphobia

Transphobia is the fear or dislike of someone based on the fact that they are or are perceived of as trans or trans allies. It can take place through words or actions, expressing itself as harassment or hatred or in discriminatory practices and behaviours.

Transphobic behaviour will amount to harassment where the complainant reasonably perceives it as creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

The NEU’s use of the word trans

We go further than the Equality Act 2010 and define trans to mean people whose gender is inconsistent with the sex they were registered at birth. Trans people need not have had any medical transition to be considered trans. They may describe themselves using a variety of terms including non-binary and gender non-conforming.

The NEU’s commitment to protecting trans rights

We accept and acknowledge that trans identities are real and valid. We recognize and condemn the harm that transphobic behaviour causes.

The impact of transphobia

The effects of transphobic behaviour are broad and far-reaching. Transphobia can prevent people from living full and open lives, comfortably as themselves and free from harm. It creates barriers in society and in the workplace.

Examples of transphobic behaviour

  • The intentional or repeated mis-gendering of trans people (whether or not that person is present);
  • Abusing trans people whether through mockery, innuendo, insults, jokes or demeaning comments or malicious gossip about trans identity and practices;
  • Intrusive questioning;
  • Seeking to remove trans people from discussions about issues which directly affect them;
  • Ostracising trans people on grounds of their trans status;
  • Forcing or pressurizing trans people to participate in discussions of trans identity against their wishes;
  • Spreading the idea that being trans is a contagion or a plague;

Failing to listen respectfully to trans voices including those of trans children about their choices and identity.

[These examples will be explored in more detail in our forthcoming Guidance]

Holding and expressing gender critical views

Nothing in this definition is intended to contravene the protections given to all protected groups under the Equality Act 2010. The NEU rejects all discrimination and recognizes that holding and expressing gender critical views is protected by law under the Equality Act and the European Convention on Human Rights, Articles 9 and 10. This means holders of these views can express them freely, as long as they do so in a respectful manner, avoiding creating an environment which is hostile or discriminatory to trans people.

The Code of Conduct

Discrimination on grounds of gender identity is already prohibited under the NEU Code of Professional Conduct. Members are reminded of this extract from Code:

“Members will conduct themselves professionally and ethically, with respect for others, maintaining an environment in which the Union’s objectives can be pursued productively and creatively. Discrimination and discriminatory behaviour will not be tolerated, including discrimination on ground of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sex, gender identity, disability, social class, family status, pregnancy and maternity.”

About this statement

The NEU statement on transphobia is intended as a clear expression of the union’s commitment to protecting trans members from harassment and offensive conduct.

The statement sets out that the union recognises and condemns the harm that transphobic behaviour causes, and that this will not be tolerated.

It acknowledges that transphobia can be expressed in words or actions, discriminatory practices and behaviours, and gives examples of behaviour that should be understood as transphobic.

It also reflects that conference policy promotes the airing of diverse views in a respectful manner so that the union can be a safe space for debate and challenge, whilst always respecting the right of oppressed groups to identify prejudice and discrimination.

The statement derives from a first draft which was prepared by the Trans and Non-Binary Network following a conference resolution in 2021. It was discussed extensively in NEU executive committees firstly in the equalities committee and then by the policy, research and campaigns committee (PRC).

PRC agreed to seek legal advice from two counsel, following which there was discussion by the member defence and union strength strategic committees. The text of the transphobia definition statement was recommended by PRC in accordance with the legal advice, and was agreed by the full executive on 18 May, 2023.

As indicated in the statement, further guidance will be prepared to amplify and explain the examples given. This will be the subject of discussion and consultation within the union including with the Trans and Non-binary network and will be made available as soon as possible.

Steps will be taken to put in place an action plan to ensure the statement is understood across the union. It will be implemented throughout the union’s activities, from how it can be used to organise and bargain for equality in the workplace, to how it relates to the expectations set out in the union’s code of professional conduct.

Discrimination against trans students is illegal under the 2010 Equality Act

The DfE’s guidance on relationships and sex education states that schools should ensure that the needs of all pupils are appropriately met, and that all pupils understand the importance of equality and respect.

These are principles which guide the everyday practice and decision-making of schools. Educators will continue working to ensure that schools are inclusive and welcoming places for all students.

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