Yesterday I blogged about correspondence that I had sent to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, expressing concerns about their approach to addressing the issues of trans people.
This evening I received the following reply from the Chief Executive of the Commission, which I'm reproducing here in full.
29 January 2009
Thank you for your personal email of 28 January 2009 where you share your concerns around the Commission's approach to transgender equality.
Equality on the basis of gender identity is a distinct statutory mandate for the Commission, separate from gender equality. I don't often talk about strands, because the Commission's approach is to focus on the whole experience of inequality. But when I do, I always say we are a seven strand, not a six strand, equality body.
We recognise that the Commission did not champion transgender equality as loudly as we could have done in our first year in operation. We have realised the gaps in our work and are taking steps to rectify them, because we know that we need to be a national leader, awareness-raiser and advocate in this field.
We have appointed a policy lead on transgender equality and Patrick Diamond, Group Director Strategy, has been appointed as the champion for trans issues on the senior management team. And we have commissioned a full-scale review of the research that exists on transgender inequalities to map the gaps in our knowledge.
We are advising the government on transgender equality in the new Equality Bill, working for as broad a definition of gender identity as possible to ensure that all trans people enjoy equal protection under the law. We are also producing guidance on how to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the provision of goods, facilities and services, such as housing services and leisure facilities.
In addition, we have been working closely and robustly with Permanent Secretaries in Whitehall to encourage leadership on promoting equal opportunities for everyone in public services, including transgender people.
We are also working to ensure that transphobic bullying is outlawed in education and in schools.
You raised a particular concern about subscribing to the relevant news feed on our website. Our RSS feeds are linked to the news filters that were created when the site was first commissioned. The filters rely on metadata (the way information the public see is tagged and indexed). When the site was commissioned trans issues were classified under gender in this metadata. The Commission now accepts this was a mistake and is fully committed to rectifying the subsequent impact. We are clearly committed to being a seven strand organisation and this will be reflected in our news feeds. The metadata project that will enable this to occur is underway but requires major re-engineering so is not something we can remedy overnight. We hope to have completed this project by the end of March 2009.
I'm sorry to hear that there has sometimes been a delay in your being reimbursed for travel expenses incurred when contributing to Commission consultations. The Commission strives to provide genuine opportunities for stakeholders to engage with us on our developing strategies and policies. We recognise that many of our stakeholders are not well funded, so we try and balance that with our duty to consult. We are currently developing our policy on paying expenses for attending Commission events, which will be designed to ensure that people aren't excluded from contributing to the Commission's work on the grounds of cost. However, as a publicly funded organisation with limited resources, we unfortunately do not have the scope to offer payments for people's time.
Even though you won't be at the Strategy event next month, I appreciate you taking the opportunity to share your views and priorities with us via email. I have passed them on to our Business Planning team who will certainly be looking the three key strategic aims of the North West LGB&T strategy to develop the final strategic plan.
Dr Nicola Brewer