Transgender Guidance

1. Introduction

This guidance has been developed to support members of the University in meeting the requirements of the University’s Transgender Policy. The guidance is structured into three sections:

  • Sections 1-3 provide a general introduction to transgender issues;
  • Sections 4-8 provide guidance on supporting individual students, staff and alumni who are transitioning; and
  • Sections 9-16 provide guidance on becoming a trans-inclusive organisation.

Terms included in the Glossary have been highlighted in bold text.


In this policy ‘Transgender’ (trans) is used to refer to the following groups:

  • People who are taking or have taken steps to change the gender identity they were assigned at birth. This includes people covered by the Equality Act definition: “A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.”
  • People who do not identify with a permanent binary gender identity, including those who identify in other ways, such as genderqueer, gender variant, non-binary or agender. These terminologies are evolving and highly personal and this list is not exhaustive.


The aims of the policy and associated guidance are:

  • to assist members of the University in understanding gender diversity in relation to the activities of the University;
  • to clarify roles and responsibilities for supporting students, staff and alumni who wish to make, or have made changes to their gender identity; and
    • to ensure that the University has protocols for changing student, staff and alumni records and for storing confidential information relating to gender identity.

The guidance is informative, not prescriptive and is intended to form the basis for sensitive support of transgender individuals.

It is recommended that colleges adopt this policy and guidance rather than developing their own.

2. Transgender overview

The University is committed to supporting people who wish to make or have made changes to their gender identity. However we recognise that this is a new area for everyone and that we are all learning and may make mistakes. Both the individual and University and college officers should engage in open and respectful communication, and take responsibility for ensuring the desired outcome.

The historic approach to gender and sex has been to classify people into the binary categories of male or female on the basis of their physical attributes at birth. Nowadays it is recognised that there are at least four dimensions to gender and sex.

  • Gender identity is a person’s internal sense of their own gender. For trans people their own sense of who they are does not match the sex assigned to them at birth.
  • Gender expression refers to the ways in which people manifest their gender, for example through how they dress, speak and act.
  • Sex– the two main categories (male and female) assigned to a person on the basis of primary sex characteristics (genitalia) at birth. In the UK this sex is included on the birth certificate and is their legal sex within the country’s legal framework.
    • Sexual orientation – a person’s emotional, romantic and/or sexual attraction to another person.

An increasing number of people are identifying at different points on these scales, and sometimes in a fluid and changing way, contributing to a more complex spectrum of gender identity.

Transgender or trans is used as an umbrella term for people whose identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Every trans person’s experience is different, and increasingly some people are taking an exploratory approach to gender identity. 

Transitioning is a term used to describe the process and steps an individual takes in order to live in the gender with which they identify, where this is different from the one assigned at birth. The new identity may be non-binary (see below). Transitioning is a unique process for each individual and may include any number of changes to their life. Some people have a firm idea at the start of their desired outcome, but for other people the destination is not clear.

Transitioning may include dressing differently, changing name and pronoun, changing official documents, telling friends and family, or a number of other steps. Transitioning may include a medical intervention such as hormone treatment or surgery, though not everyone will choose this route. 

Gender dysphoria is the clinical diagnosis for someone feeling profound distress at the discrepancy between the way they feel inside and the sex they were assigned at birth. However, some trans people reject the idea that experiencing gender dysphoria is a pre-requisite for being trans.

I came out as genderqueer/non-binary to my college in April of this year and they have been really supportive about it. They changed my name on the records, everyone was briefed and now use my new name. [The lack of proper use of] pronouns is disappointing but as I’m non-binary and prefer “they” it’s just that way with almost everyone. All in all, it’s been a very positive experience and I’m so relieved to be out and accepted by everybody.


Exploring gender identity at Oxford

Oxford staff and students are contributing to the evolving debate about gender identity. For some people this is not an abstract academic discussion, but part of a personal process of developing greater understanding of one’s self. This may include using a different name with friends or experimenting with changes to appearance. Later people may ask to be addressed by a different name or pronoun. At some future time they may change their name by deed poll or tell the University or college that they wish to be recognised in their affirmed gender, but at the start of transition they may not know what direction their journey will take. There may be personal reasons why people feel unable to transition, or feel they can only be ‘out’ in certain circles. 

People who are non-binary do not identify themselves as either a man or a woman. They may have a more fluid sense of gender identity, and may experience themselves in different ways.

Students and staff come to Oxford from countries round the world, with very different approaches to transgender issues.  Gender identity interacts with other areas of identity, including ethnicity, culture, religion and disability, and this may sometimes lead to particular issues for individuals, or cause tensions. 

Partners and family

Some members of the University have experience of dealing with the transition of a close family member, and they may need information and support too. This may be a bewildering and distressing time for the whole family, who may deal with the situation in different ways. 


Under UK law, trans people are protected against discrimination, and their gender identity history must be treated as highly confidential.


  • Transitioning involves different steps and activities for different people.
  • The timescales, activity and communication will be driven and led by the person transitioning.
  • The University will take steps to support people who are transitioning, including making changes to records.
  • A person’s trans status and gender identity history must be treated as highly confidential.

3. Legal protection

This section gives a short summary of some of the key legislation and explains the University’s approach to supporting trans people.

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 lists gender reassignment as one of the ‘protected characteristics’ on the grounds of which people are protected against unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation. This applies in education, employment and the provision of goods and services.

It is not necessary for an individual to be under medical supervision, or to undertake reassignment surgery, to benefit from the legal protection, which commences from the point at which they first state their intention to transition. Employers have a responsibility to protect their employees from harassment and bullying, including in relation to gender reassignment.

It is unlawful to discriminate against someone because they are perceived to be transgender, whether or not the perception is accurate. It is also unlawful to discriminate against someone because of their association with a transgender person (for example as a family member, friend, partner, etc).

As a public authority, the University also has equality duties to:

  • Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Equality Act;
  • Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it; and to
  • Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.

Some trans people may also be protected as having the protected characteristic of disability.

Where an individual has been diagnosed as having ‘gender dysphoria’ or ‘gender identity disorder’ and the condition has a substantial and long-term adverse impact on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, they will also be protected under the disability discrimination provisions of the act. [EHRC, 2014, Section 2.28][1]

[1]EHRC (2014) Equality Act 2010 technical guidance on further and higher education. Equality and Human Rights Commission, London. Section 2.28

Gender Recognition Act 2004

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows individuals who have undergone gender reassignment to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). This means that they are legally recognised for all purposes in their confirmed gender. It is a criminal offence under this legislation to disclose information relating to the individual’s gender history obtained in an official capacity (i.e. as part of a person’s work role).

To obtain the GRC an individual must provide evidence to satisfy the Gender Recognition Panel that they are at least 18 years of age, have or have had gender dysphoria, have fully lived in their confirmed gender for at least two years, and intend to live permanently in their confirmed gender.  Obtaining a GRC means that a person is:

  • entitled to be issued with a new birth certificate reflecting their changed gender;
  • legally recognised as belonging to their confirmed gender ‘for all purposes’ including the criminal law;
  • entitled to state benefits and occupational pension schemes on the basis of their acquired gender.

It is illegal to ask to see a Gender Recognition Certificate. If the University needs proof of legal sex, university and college officers should request a birth certificate or passport.