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 public, and whether it matters to individuals in their everyday lives. We conducted an online survey and 44 semi-structured interviews to collect information about the significance of legal gender in everyday life and the appetite for reform. We chose this approach to give us a large-scale picture of the issues across different groups.

Attitudes to Gender, the online survey, was open from October to December 2018 to anyone over the age of 18. We asked for opinions on the significance of gender, including the categories of female/male in everyday life, and views on whether the law should be reformed so that infants are no longer legally declared female/male at birth. We received 3,101 responses from a range of publics. Learn more about our survey respondents.

Interviews were conducted with a range of people including 27 cisgender women, 8 cisgender men, and 9 trans and gender diverse people. 14 interviewees were parents of dependent children. The average age of interviewees was 43 years, ranging from 20 to 77 years old.

Read more about our key findings from strand three.

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.