Phase Two

Assessing Different Reform Frameworks

We are currently in the second phase of our research, which is exploring the implications of abolishing or radically reforming the legal gendering of personhood.  This legal gendering happens in various ways, including through the registering of sex at birth (see our Q &A).   Our research is divided into four separate strands.  To read more on our research findings and analysis so far,   please see the various papers in a special issue of feminists@law on our research.

Implications for sex/gender-specific provision

How would changes to the current legal status of sex/gender affect the provision of sex/gender-specific services?   This first strand of the project considers how sex/gender-specific services might respond to, expand upon, or be challenged by changes to the current legal framework in this area.   The Future of Legal Gender project is focusing on three key sites, namely: schools, shelters, and refuges.

For this strand of the research, we are carrying out interviews with policy experts and service providers from all three areas to investigate how services currently determine sex/gender in their respective contexts and the challenges future legal changes might pose to the way in which they presently operate.

Implications for advancing equality  

If sex/ gender were no longer a part of legal personhood, what effects, if any, would this have on struggles to advance greater social equality and justice? In asking this question, we are concerned with equality as it relates to sex/ gender, ethnicity/ race, class/ wealth, nationality and disability. We are also concerned with forms of equality that go beyond formally equal treatment. There are many factors that generate unequal lives, and law can have positive or negative consequences for advancing social justice even when it appears on its face to be neutral.

The research in this strand has four main parts:

  1. The relationship between reforming sex/ gender status and feminist analyses of work, sexuality, socialization, care and violence – particularly how inequalities and exploitation are gendered.
  2. The potential effects of sex/ gender status reform on other inequalities (including ethnicity, class, nationality, sexuality, and disability).
  3. The value of frameworks used for other “protected characteristics” (e.g., religion and sexual orientation) for thinking about the reform of legal sex/ gender status.
  4. The relationship between legislative reform and everyday legal understandings and practices, including those of public bodies and NGOs.

To develop this part of the project, we are interviewing members of public bodies, such as local authorities, along with NGOs, activists, lawyers and academics.  To date, we have interviewed over 80 people for this strand.

Implications for the wider public

The third strand is exploring what legal gender status means for the general public, and whether it matters to individuals in their everyday lives.  It is also examining  attitudes to different legal reform options among different communities.

From October to December 2018, we carried out an on-line survey, to enable a large-scale picture of the issues across different groups to emerge.   Over 3,000 people took part.   You can see the demographic makeup of respondents here.   In addition, we have conducted 44 one-to-one interviews, to explore participants understandings, interpretations, and experiences of gender.   These included 14 parents of children aged under 18.   15 of the interview participants also took part in an audio/visual data collection phase, in which they documented their experiences of gender in everyday life for a period of eight weeks prior to interview, using text, audio, and visual materials.

Statutory and administrative implications

This fourth strand is exploring the technical challenges of reforming legal gender across England and Wales. It focuses on the statutory drafting process and the administrative implications of reforming legal gender.   We are carrying out interviews with parliamentary drafts people, technical experts in specific areas of law, academics and NGO specialists.

Read about Phase Three of the project here.


Return to the overview of the  project here.