Transsexual people: your rights relating to the provision of goods, facilities and services

Protection for transsexual people as customers and service users

The Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) was amended in April 2008 to protect transsexual people against discrimination and harassment in the provision of goods, facilities and services. This adds to the previous protection in employment and vocational training.

The law applies to both public and commercially run services and enterprises.

For example:

  • It is unlawful for a publican or shopkeeper to refuse to serve a customer because they are intending to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment.
  • It is unlawful for a leisure centre to refuse to permit a transsexual person to use their facilities.
  • It is unlawful for a housing association to refuse to offer accommodation to a transsexual person, or to offer housing of lesser quality or on different terms

These are only examples. The law applies to most circumstances, with only a handful of exceptions. Exceptions include:

For religious organisations an exception may only be made in the limited circumstance where 'the place is (permanently or for the time being) occupied or used for the purposes of an organised religion, and the facilities or services are restricted to men so as to comply with the doctrines of that religion or avoid offending the religious susceptibilities of a significant number of its followers'

In hospitals and establishments for persons requiring special care and attention it may also be permissible to take a less favourable approach towards transsexual people in the provision of goods, facilities or services provided that to do so is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Similar limited exceptions are applicable to charities and the use of communal accommodation.


A trans person who has undergone or is undergoing gender reassignment may wish to use the facilities in a local sports centre, but fears they will face barriers or discrimination. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has produced guidance about transsexual people taking part in sports (Pdf) available on the Press for Change website. 

Guidance for public authorities

In February 2010 the Commission published new guidance for public authorities to help them meet their equality duties and human rights obligations in the provision of goods, facilities and services to trans people. It is relevant for authorities in England, Scotland and Wales.This ‘how to’ guide is for managers and front line staff of all levels and is illustrated with good practice examples. The guidance will help public authorities to be clear on what they are expected to do to comply with the law and provide their trans service users with the goods, facilities and services to which they are entitled.

Download the guidance:

Last Updated: 19 Oct 2009