Trans Monitoring

Take care if monitoring gender identity

The monitoring of gender identity needs to be undertaken with great care and only once your policies and approach towards trans people are sound. Make sure people can see beforehand that there is a positive reason why you’d wish to count how many trans staff you have.

Diversity and monitoring

Monitoring is an important tool for understanding the diverse make-up of both your workforce and customer base. As a general rule it is therefore to be encouraged.

An increasing number of organisations are therefore adding ‘Sexual Orientation’ and ‘Religion or Belief’ to the monitoring they already do for gender, ethnic background, disability and age.

However, organisations are encouraged (for now) to take a different approach when it comes to monitoring trans people.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Unless you word the question very carefully (and explain the terms used) then it is more likely that your monitoring questions will offend rather than encourage trans people to offer to be counted. People have many different ways of describing themselves and often object to putting themselves into a set of categories defined by someone else. 
  • Non-trans people may also misunderstand the questions and could be offended or give false positives. The possibility of offence exists with all monitoring and is something you must be prepared to address. However, this points to the importance of preparing the ground thoroughly before making trans monitoring part of the norm. 
  • Trans people are relatively rare in most organisations. There is a risk that if numbers are disaggregated down to a building or departmental level people may be encouraged to play ‘guess who’ with their colleagues in a small group. This could jeopardise the privacy and safety of employees (including those who are not trans but might be perceived to be). Anxiety about this scenario may also inhibit people from identifying themselves too. Remember that many trans people (especially those who have the protection of legal gender recognition) may not wish to be identified as having a trans history. Any process which leads to their identification could lead to prosecution under Section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 or via the Data Protection Act 1998.

For all these reasons it is recommended that you concentrate on 'getting your organisation’s house in order' in every other area and then prepare the ground before monitoring for Gender Identity.

Further information

Last Updated: 27 Oct 2009