Tribunal ruling: Condor v Bisson

Channel-CondorExpress-extThe Jersey Employment and Discrimination Tribunal have made recommendations to ferry company, Condor, as a result of their discriminatory behaviour towards Ms Bisson. The full judgement can be read here.

It is no surprise that the first transgender discrimination case in Jersey is about the use of gender-segregated facilities. This is an area that always causes problems for the trans community because being trans is not well-understood by the majority of people: they confuse gender with sexuality and allow irrational, often transphobic, fears to cloud their reasoning.

Much has been made in the media about changing signage, but this is, actually, not the most important point to be taken from the judgement.The most important point is that Condor got it wrong from the outset by offering a trans person the disabled facilities and by not acknowledging Ms Bisson’s gender correctly. So, before everyone rushes out to buy new signs for the toilet doors, let’s look at what businesses need to learn from this ruling.

As a result of the judgement, businesses should be aware of the following points:

  • Businesses need to ensure that their policies for dealing with transgender customers and employees are up to date and comply with discrimination law. They need to communicate these policies to their employees and provide their staff with training on discrimination legislation that may need to include a discussion of trans issues where understanding is lacking.
  • Transgender people should be treated as their recognised gender for all purposes. This includes using the correct form of address, titles and pronouns. If you are not sure of a person’s gender, use a gender-neutral pronoun like they/their/them until you can ascertain their gender or find a moment to ask discreetly what title they prefer to use.
  • It is never appropriate to offer a transgender person the disabled facilities to use. A transgender person is not disabled and, therefore, would not want to inconvenience users who are disabled and need the extra assistance offered by these facilities.
  • Businesses should permit transgender people to use the facility that is inline with their recognised gender. Under the law, a trans woman’s comparator is a woman and a trans man’s comparator is a man. In seeking a decision as to whether a trans person has been discriminated against, a court or tribunal will ask: was the trans man/woman treated the same as a man/woman?

So, bearing this last point in mind, do we need to replace the signs “ladies and gents” on toilet doors with stick figures? No. You are not going to be taken to the tribunal for discrimination if your toilet signs still use words. However, you could be taken to tribunal if you or your employees do not treat a trans woman the same as you treat a woman. Most transgender people do not want special treatment, they want equal treatment that affords them the same rights and privileges as non-trans people of the same gender as their recognised gender.

When someone is in the early stages of transitioning using a public toilet is one of the areas that worries them most. Trans women find this more difficult than trans men because of the prejudice that exists in society. Education is the key to breaking down this prejudice. Understanding what it means to be transgender and, crucially, what it doesn’t mean will help the trans community to lead safer and fulfilled lives but also help businesses stay out of the tribunal. This is why, ever since the discrimination law was introduced on 1 September 2015, Trans* Jersey have been offering a free one hour training session to all and any businesses about trans awareness.

Trans* Jersey hopes that Condor is the last business that finds themselves in the tribunal for a case involving the use of toilets or changing rooms by transgender people. If your organisation is not sure how to deal with a trans issue, please contact us or Liberate and we will be happy to advise you.

Choosing M or F

Count the number of times in a week you are asked to choose between M or F. It will surprise you. At work, you may have to choose every time you use the toilet facilities; when you are shopping for clothes, you will be asked to choose the men’s or women’s department; when you select a book or movie, entertainment is segregated into sections such as “chick-lit” or “movies for men”; and, when you fill out a form, the place you are applying to will want to know, too (if for no other reason than to be able to address you formally).

Here’s a list of some the things that we came up with that ask us to choose:

  • Public toilets
  • Changing rooms
  • Hospital wards
  • Airport security
  • School
  • Prison
  • Military service
  • Public transport (in some countries)
  • Religious observance
  • Sports teams
  • Exercise classes
  • Application forms
  • Shopping centres (especially clothing stores)
  • Advertising/products
  • Books/movies

toiletsignFor many of the things we’ve listed a strong argument can be made for a unisex approach to them. Take shopping for instance, stores could be organised by the item you wish to purchase, instead of effectively divided into two stores, M and F. Imagine M&S having departments simply called underwear, shirts, trousers, skirts, jumpers, etc. Would this be a problem? You need a pair of jeans, so you browse through all their jeans and you come out with a pair of jeans that fit and that you are pleased with. Does it matter that the designer of the jeans had a particular gender in mind when they created them?

Ah, but what about the changing rooms, though? The same argument that we use against those who think that making trans* people use toilet facilities that match their biological sex, rather than their preferred gender, is relevant here: when did you last see a person naked in a department store changing room (or public toilet)? It never happens. Unisex facilities put nobody at any greater risk than segregated facilities and, with appropriate doors/curtains on the cubicles, are entirely private.

So, why is it a choice? Why have we come up with the idea that men and women should be kept separate? Honestly, Trans* Jersey struggles to answer this question. We don’t really know. We can only guess that it comes two parts: a) it is a hang over from when the church’s idea of sin governed our morality and contraceptives were not widely available. In the interest of stopping boys and girls doing what boys and girls might do, segregation was strictly maintained. b) it makes it easier for the marketing men. They can generalise how women respond to products, as distinct from men, and target their marketing accordingly.

The other question that is relevant here is: why did we decide that we should separate the human population into only two groups? And why pick this particular facet of humanity? Why not hair colour, or eye colour, or whether we can dance or not, or whether we like Marmite or not? There aren’t two genders. We know that gender is a spectrum. There aren’t even two sexes. 1 in 100 births are intersex (see here for more information). Like so many facets of humanity, trying to put us all into two categories doesn’t work. Right or left handed? What about ambidextrous people?

Categorising us all into two genders is unnecessary and arbitrary but it persists. We wish it didn’t. It would make living in the middle easier. So, until such time as society gets over its hang up with labeling us one or the other, we are forced to choose every day. Count the number of times.

Transition management

There is very little chance that you will be able to keep your transition a secret in Jersey. The island is small and news of your transition will travel quickly around your friends, family, colleagues and, surprisingly, even people who you don’t know! If you want to transition privately, your best option is to leave the island for a city. However, before you take that step, consider the pros and cons carefully:


  • You will pass more often in a city as your gender rather than as transgender
  • You will have access to a wider range of professionals to support your transition
  • You will have access to support groups where you can meet other trans* individuals
  • You can make a fresh start in your new gender


  • As well as undergoing the changes to your gender, you will also have to undertake huge changes in your home and work life
  • You will lose the support network you have in Jersey (friends, family, colleagues)
  • You may not be eligible for funded healthcare, depending on where you move to
  • Moving location will add to the cost of your transition

Jersey is a conservative place but it is also, by and large, a tolerant place. The island’s population is a well educated one – our schools consistently get above UK average grades. There are very few hate crimes and people are able to go about their business without interference. Islanders may like to gossip and some of the attitudes you encounter may be a little behind the times but, rarely, are they malicious. The new anti-discrimination legislation due to come into force in September 2015 should improve this situation through education and awareness campaigns. There are worse places in the world to be open about your gender or sexuality.

Telling people

Because news will spread fast in Jersey, you need to plan the order in which you inform people of your transition. You will find that most of your acquaintances will be accepting and supportive of your decision to transition. However, you don’t want to jeopardise that goodwill by people hearing of your news secondhand. We would suggest the following order as a starting point:

  • Your GP and other members of the medical profession necessary to establish that you wish to transition – this is guaranteed to be in confidence and a necessary first step.
  • One close friend or family member in whose judgement and discretion you trust – inform them that they are the only one who knows and that you are not telling anyone else for the moment. They will act as a sounding board for your thoughts and feelings. If you do not have access to someone suitable using an Internet forum specifically for trans* people where you can ask questions of other trans* individuals can provide the same support.
  • You can stop at this point until you are ready to come out as transgender. Once you are ready to come out, the next steps should follow in quick succession (i.e. within days of each other). Make sure that you inform each person you tell of who knows your news, apart from them, and what your timetable is for telling others.
  • Your advocate – this is guaranteed to be in confidence and the first public step you will have to take. Your deed poll should take about a week to process and pass through the Royal Court. It is not one of the Royal Court procedures announced in the Business Brief.
  • Your closest friends and family – try to do this face to face if possible. They will be the ones most concerned by your transition because they love you and the ones who require the most reassurance. Have some sources of factual information prepared for them (e.g. a self-help book, a lists of websites offering advice, a handout of basic facts that you have written, an open letter explaining your journey to this decision) to help with their understanding of what you are going through and to demonstrate that you take your transition seriously and have done your research.
  • Your line manager or, if more suitable, your personnel manager at work – the process for coming out at work is discussed in more detail below.
  • Your work colleagues, extended family members and casual acquaintances/friends – email makes this process much easier than it used to be. On the day that you inform your work colleagues, plan to send an email to your extended family members and casual acquaintances/friends. The email can be relatively brief but be sure to include your new name and the pronouns (he/him/his, she/her/her, they/them/their) you would like people to use from now onwards. You may also wish to explain your journey to this decision and provide some links to websites offering advice. This is the day that you will really feel that you have come out and you will, in all likelihood, find it a positive experience as most people will respond with messages of good wishes and congratulations.

transitionTransition management at work

In the workplace, you should expect the following considerations from the manager that you first approach with the news of your transition:

  • They take a non-judgemental stance
  • They are available if you need to talk
  • They support your plan for coming out to your colleagues
  • They assist in educating co-workers
  • They allow for mood changes caused by hormone therapy
  • They work with you to plan time off for surgery
  • They treat you no differently than they would other colleagues of that gender
  • They always use your new name and gender pronoun
  • They take appropriate disciplinary steps with co-workers who do not respect your gender
  • They remind co-workers that it is not their job to ‘out’ you to new employees joining the company
  • They inform you of anyone else that they are obliged to inform of your news and get your agreement to do so

In consultation with your manager, agree on the plan for telling your colleagues. You should plan to tell colleagues within a matter of days from telling your manager. There should be no reason for the manager to delay:

  • Set a date on which everyone will be told (all at once). Don’t allow the news to spread by gossip.
  • Find a method of telling everyone the same information at once. Email is probably the best way to do this so that staff who work remotely also hear at the same time. Keep the information clear and factual.
  • You may wish to undertake a presentation about gender issues to all staff in which a Q&A can happen. Only the most confident/comfortable trans* individuals are likely to undertake this but it can be a great way to get your colleagues comfortable with your news. Discuss this possibility with your manager.
  • You may wish to take holiday whilst your colleagues get used to your news so that your return to work marks a clear date on which you are dressed as your preferred gender and referred to by your new name/pronouns. Discuss this possibility with your manager.
  • Your manager may wish to offer all members of staff the opportunity to talk to them and air their concerns about the change. This is a good idea as it can stop any negative comments early on and the manager can get a feel for which employees might need anti-discrimination training.

Below is a sample email that can be adapted by you and your manager to send to other employees:

I have been asked by John Bunbury to write to you to inform you that he is starting a process of gender reassignment from male to female.

From [date], his name will change from John to Elizabeth (Liz). Liz has also asked to be referred to by female pronouns (she, her, hers) from this date.

I ask all employees to respect Liz’s wishes and to use her correct name and pronouns. I also ask that you respect Liz’s right to privacy and that you do not discuss this with other employees. Should you wish to discuss the matter, please arrange to see me in confidence.

[Optional] A presentation about gender issues will be held on [date], which all employees are expected to attend. Further details to follow.

[Optional] Liz is currently on holiday and will be returning on [date].

Toilets and changing rooms

One of the areas that gets people into difficulties is communal facilities that are gender segregated. You should expect to receive the following courtesies from your manager:

  • They should ask you which facility you would like to use.
  • They should offer to provide you with a gender-neutral option, but not force you to use one.
  • If other members of staff complain about the arrangements, they should educate them.

If your manager does not get this right, be patient with them because it will be due to lack of experience in dealing with trans* issues. Explain that you are the most vulnerable person in this situation not your colleagues and that using facilities designated for the opposite gender is one of the most daunting aspects of transitioning. Remind them that:

  • Digressing gender norms does not make you sexual predator.
  • The majority of sexual assaults in the world are perpetrated by cisgender (non-trans) men.
  • Even in the gents, you rarely, if ever, see other people’s genitalia when using public facilities.
  • Transwomen are put at risk of being physically assaulted by men when using men’s facilities.


If your organisation has a uniform:

  • Ensure that your manager arranges for a uniform matching your new gender to be provided as soon as possible.
  • The uniform may need to be altered fit. Your employer should offer to fund this for you but check company policy for whether this is covered for cisgender employees. If not, you are unlikely to get it covered either. (Transwomen may be broader in the shoulders, transmen may be shorter in the leg, than standard sizing.)
  • Agree a point in time when you will commence wearing your new uniform.

Health and safety

If appropriate to your work and your transition, you should discuss the following issues with your manager to ensure that they are aware that some of your duties may need to be adjusted as your transition progresses:

  • Hormone therapy brings about physical changes. Be aware that if you are an MtF manual worker you will not be able to lift the weight you used to.
  • Following surgery you may return to work but may not yet be capable of carrying out all your normal duties. Take medical advice about recovery times and appraise your manager of them.

Finally, Jersey does not currently have appropriate legislation to protect trans* workers’ rights. This is due to be introduced in September 2015. However, the States of Jersey appear to be modelling their new law on the UK Equality Act, so be aware that:

  • In the vast majority of cases, the gender of a worker is of no relevance to their ability to do a particular job. However, the Equality Act 2010 does allow for an exception where being of a particular sex is an ‘occupational requirement’ of that post. It might apply where the work necessarily involves conducting intimate searches, or where services are provided to one gender only, such as a women’s refuge.
  • The Equality Act makes it clear that the employer must act reasonably in applying an occupational requirement. For example, conducting intimate searches is unlikely to be a main part of any particular post. The employer must consider whether these tasks could be carried out by someone else. Also, the occupational requirement must be identified at the beginning of the recruitment process and stated in the application pack.
  • If an employee who is intending to transition permanently works in a single sex position or organisation, it is probably best for the employee, the employer and any service users if redeployment can be negotiated. Employers should make sure that options are discussed early on, to reach the best outcome.
  • Don’t forget that a person with a Gender Recognition Certificate is legally of that sex for all purposes.

Guides to managing your transition at work –
National Institute of Economic and Social Research
The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services