Phase Two

Assessing Different Reform Frameworks

Phase Two explored 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).  The research was divided into the following strands.  Research findings and analysis from Phase Two can be read here and are also available as a podcast.

Strand One: 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?   The first strand of Phase Two considered how sex/gender-specific services might respond to, expand upon, or be challenged by changes to the current legal framework in this area.   Future of Legal Gender focuses on three key sites: schools, shelters, and refuges.

We carried out interviews with policy experts and service providers from these key sites 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.

Click here to listen to Dr Flora Renz discussing the potential implications of decertification for single-sex schools and domestic violence services.

Strand Two: 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? This question is 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 formal 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.

Strand Two had four 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.

We interviewed over 80 people including members of public bodies, such as local authorities, along with NGOs, activists, lawyers and academics.

Strand Three: Implications for the wider public

The third strand explored what legal gender status means for the general public, and whether it matters to individuals in their everyday lives.  It is also examined  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.  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.

Strand Four: Statutory and administrative implications

The fourth strand explored the technical challenges of reforming legal gender across England and Wales. It focused on the statutory drafting process and the administrative implications of reforming legal gender.   We carried 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.