Center Parcs wants trans people to use the changing room of their “legally defined sex” or else use a private changing room.
Unless trans people have obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate – an arduous process that a tiny fraction of the trans population have gone through with, and which is not available to non-binary people – then their “legally defined sex” is the gender they were assigned at birth.
The Center Parcs policy appears to be in potential contradiction to UK equalities law, which protects trans people’s right to use the single-sex space corresponding to their gender identity.
The holiday company, which operates six “holiday villages” across the UK and Ireland, told a trans woman she can only use the women’s changing rooms if she’s “gone through the full transition”.
Although she’s been to Center Parcs every year for the past three years, the Lake District family holiday that Victoria Hodges is planning for January 2020 will be her first Center Parcs visit since transitioning – so she contacted them to check if there were any rules she should be aware of.
At first, Center Parcs told her by email that “private changing rooms … are available for transgender guests to use”.
When Victoria asked if this means she’s not allowed in the women’s changing rooms, a Center Parcs representative told her: “Transgender guests are welcome to use the changing rooms that match with their acquired gender if they have gone through the full transition. If they are still in the transition period we would ask that they use the private changing facilities.”
Victoria told PinkNews that she was “very surprised” to receive this response.
“It seems like an error,” she says. “This can’t seriously be their policy towards transgender individuals using their spa and changing facilities. What the policy does is to segregate transgender individuals into those that have and those that haven’t ‘gone through the full transition’ vs. ‘still in the transition period’.”
The Center Parcs response echoes the changing rooms controversy at gym chain David Lloyd.
In March, a David Lloyd Leisure spokesperson told HuffPost that trans members have to use “facilities designated for their birth gender” unless they hold a Gender Recognition Certificate.
There was immediate backlash, so David Lloyd backtracked and said that, actually, it would never ask a trans person to prove their legal gender and that it “recognises all individuals as belonging to the sex that they present”.
Center Parcs confirmed to PinkNews that “we ask that guests use the changing facilities appropriate to their legally defined sex … [which is] that stated on a birth certificate or Gender Recognition Certificate [GRC]”.
Only 12 per cent of trans men and women have a GRC, according to the government’s LGBT+ survey in 2018.
The Gender Recognition Act is the mechanism by which trans people can obtain a GRC and change the gender on their birth certificate, but the process is overly bureaucratic and expensive – so much so that the Tory government have repeatedly promised to reform it to make it more accessible.
But the GRA reforms keep being delayed – a public consultation on potential changes finished more than a year ago and the results are yet to be released.
Shadow equalities secretary Dawn Butler MP has said, several times, that the government’s handling of GRA reforms is a “f**king disgrace”.
“What happened in that void [created by the delays] … is that transgender people began to feel the hate and discrimination that they hadn’t felt in a long time,” Butler said earlier this year.
“Obviously I’m not a lawyer, but it sounds and feels like discrimination,” Victoria says. “I’ll probably still go with the family and hope they don’t discriminate, however if they do, I reserve the right to follow up with legal action.”
A Center Parcs spokesperson told PinkNews: “We appreciate that this is a deeply personal issue and we feel our policy is proportionate and compliant with the Equality Act 2010.
“Within the spa area, we operate single sex, male and female, changing facilities. Having single sex changing facilities is in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 and we ask that guests use the changing facilities appropriate to their legally defined sex.
“If guests wish to use changing facilities appropriate to their gender, we will always speak to them to see what options are available to them, while taking into account and balancing the interests of other guests. We do offer all of our guests the option to use a private changing facility to ensure that all guests and visitors can use the spa.
“We always seek to make Center Parcs as inclusive and accessible as possible for all of our guests, visitors and employees.”