‘Beyond the Binary’ with The Solicitors Regulatory Authority and Global Butterflies

Back in July 2020 the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) hosted a webinar with Global Butterflies (GB) who provides training in the area of gender identity. GB has given training to a huge number of corporate clients and civil service departments, but most notably top law firms – see here for their declared client list. At another event with Interlaw and GB, another member of staff from the SRA described himself as a ‘superfan of Global Butterflies’ and that the SRA had been one of their first customers. It was held just before the Government had announced its decision as to whether or not it would carry out its reform of the Gender Recognition Act and it was not known which way it would go.

Daniel Winterfeldt, the chair of the Interlaw Diversity Forum, introduced the session. Interlaw works closely with Stonewall and has also played an integral part in promoting gender identity ideology in the law sector. Winterfeldt works in Global Capital Markets representing investment banks and recently received an MBE for “Services to Capital Markets, to Equality and to Diversity in the Legal Profession” (that’s your first joke right there). The SRA is one of Interlaw’s key sponsors and were sponsoring its upcoming ‘queer progression report’. The survey had just closed and had surveyed over 1,000 UK lawyers looking at ‘all strands of diversity and inclusion and social mobility’.

Pronoun training for solicitors

We would learn what being ‘gender diverse’ meant and how to address a ‘non-binary’ person. This is training for solicitors by the way.

Winterfeldt explained that Rachel Reese and Emma Cusdin were two experts in ‘trans inclusion in law’ and that trans and non-binary people were under attack in the media and that laws were being rolled back and taken away. Trans people were at least 1 percent of the population and that we undoubtedly knew one but it was likely that the person was in ‘stealth mode’.

Reese had worked as a lawyer and Cusdin was a human resource expert and had worked at a high level in a blue chip company. They are also a couple and at the time were engaged to be married.

Question and answer session

Unusually for these things it was purely a question and answer session. Not actual questions from the people on the call, but the ones that I suspect that the SRA and GB had roughly agreed in advance. The woman host from the SRA explained that this was the second session of three on gender identity (the final one was on GRA reform which was postponed and finally cancelled). The words ‘beauty’ and ‘beautiful’ were used rather a lot when discussing gender diversity.

SRA: What does gender diverse mean?

GB: It means there is a spectrum of gender from male to female, with everything in between. It’s the ‘rainbow of gender’ and the only thing outside of that was ‘agender’ which is when you don’t have a gender.

Really, thought that was non-binary?

SRA: We are hearing about celebrities identifying as non-binary – what does it mean?

GB: Ten years ago trans spaces were very binary but nowadays there were more non-binary than trans people. There are over 150 genders most of which are non-binary identities. In the Millennial population roughly 12 percent are trans and non-binary. This meant that 1 in 5 of your workforce, clients, etc, in the future will be in this group. Therefore it was a good idea to train the workforce in this area and be ready for it.

SRA: Would people say to others ‘I identify as non-binary’?

GB: Some might say that, but there were subsets, like non-binary gender fluid, or agender.

Aha! So agender is non-binary.

SRA: What do you say to people who don’t accept that there are more than two genders?

GB: We are all unique on this planet and to reduce the number of genders down to two seems instinctively wrong. Many societies have had a third gender and had done so for thousands of years. An explanation about chromosomes was also proffered and it was suggested that different configurations of chromosomes meant there was more than one sex. Looking at genitals was not a reliable way of determining sex. The fact that so many people were now identifying as trans and non-binary was proof itself that sex was more than a binary. ‘And it’s a beautiful colour, I love it,’ one said.

>98% of people have normal xx/xy chromosomes configuration and there is no third gamete. Fact.

SRA: India has a legally recognised third gender and at least this gives some some protection.

GB: Absolutely. A third gender option on passport is the way forward.

SRA: Are titles/salutations outdated and do we need them anymore?

GB: Yes titles are outdated and a lot of organisations were phasing them out. You could ask a trans or non-binary person their name without ever causing offence, or even ask what their title was. Organisations should add ‘mix’ (Mx) into their databases, which anyone should be able to use, not just non-binary.

They had worked with an organisation with over a hundred titles in their system and the only one which was missing was Mx – which they felt was bizarre. They wanted titles to stop being used altogether, as it was better to engage with people on a personal level, but the same time appeared to support the use of Mx everywhere.

SRA: Women have had to publicise their marital status via a title. Perhaps ‘mucks’ (Mx) would be better as one size fits all. Job applications forced you to complete the field.

One of GB had been asked to confirm their title in a medical setting, and he mischievously responded ‘I don’t have a title’ and the poor receptionist had to point out it was a mandatory field.

Funny story. But not as funny as me introducing myself as ‘Mucks Stuart’. Seriously this is the umpteenth time that I have heard receptionists mocked.

Titles are very binary and historical. We should treat people like humans and address them how they want to be addressed.

I want to be called Mucks Stuart.

SRA: Expressed that they wanted to move away from titles as well. Titles in the SRA system were no longer mandatory but there were still about a hundred in the list.

GB: Free text fields are the best way to catch titles and gender, especially since the latter kept changing. It was better to start a letter ‘Dear Colleagues’ rather than use gendered terms. GB and Interlaw had drafted a gender neutral guide which was available on their websites. They trained in-house government lawyers on how to draft gender neutral language contracts.

SRA: How can allies help trans inclusivity in the workplace? What about pronoun usage?

GB: Pronouns recognise our gender expression and our journey. Part of the training they offer is to teach people how to ask each other what their pronouns are. People are ‘super scared’ of getting it wrong. There are no mistakes as long as you’re no doing it with no bad intention. You can’t use pronouns in a one to one conversation anyway, so why not just use the person’s name? Or if you put it in your email signature first then we will know in advance what each other’s pronouns first. Some law firms had now mandated this as a global policy in their companies or had seriously considered doing it.

They teach people how to ask each other what their pronouns are.

They teach people how to ask each other what their pronouns are.

SRA: Any other top tips?

GB: Allies should educate themselves and write letters on your behalf to the government. Some allies had asked GB for advice on how to help but the whole thing was so exhausting and they were feeling under pressure themselves. People can Google and look at the template letters that Gendered Intelligence and Mermaids had done. Be an ally in all spaces, not just at work, but also amongst friends, family and in bars. ‘Stand in front of us when we’re being attacked.’

SRA: There has been intense debate on trans inclusivity and trans inclusion in the press, why are more negative comments aimed at trans women over trans men?

GB: Trans women and trans men numbers were ‘even stevens’, (that’s not very gender neutral language is it, boys and girls?) but trans women were more visible because they can’t always pass, whereas trans men had passing privilege. The GRA reform consultation was about self-identification of gender because the current process was very stressful, invasive, medicalised and expensive. ‘We wanted to simplify that process and get non-binary recognition’.

There is a lot of worry out there that men might use this process to declare themselves as women and go into toilets, and go into fitting rooms and access single sex spaces. This affects trans men and non-binary people as well but this is always attacking trans women.

R. Reese

GB said that most women, feminists and lesbians supported gender identity ideology and that it was just a small rogue group which had formed really well. It sells a lot of newspapers. There had been no cases of self-identification ever being abused in any of the countries which had it.

Trans women have been using single sex spaces for hundreds of years without incident.

R. Reese

Mate, single sex spaces haven’t been around for hundreds of years. Doh!

Reese was now too scared to use women loos or changing rooms anymore. Trans women in sport was another fake issue – ‘because I won Wimbledon last year and it’s upset everybody’.

Trans women in prisons, erm again the case which was cited was one trans woman attacked another woman in a woman’s prison. Well, women attack women in women’s prison, you don’t have to villainies a whole characteristic.

R. Reese

Not only that but some well known people had spoken out, including JK Rowling and Graham Linehan (they chortled that he had been banned from Twitter). The mental health of the community was pretty fragile at the moment because of the attacks.

SRA: Has it got worse over the last 10-15 years?

GB: When Reese transitioned 20 years ago at the College of Law he used the ‘girls loos’ from the start and everyone was really great. Rights for trans got better and better. When the Gender Recognition Act reform was announced that was when all the trouble started. Hate crime towards trans and non-binary people had rocketed.

There were individual allies and network leads who were writing to their MPs, but there were also corporate allies. Governments come and go but corporations are forever and they are global and they have much more effect. When the so-called Bathroom Bills came into force in the States, corporates made public statements in support of gender identity ideology. GB felt that more of this was needed in the UK. Corporations had a lot of power because they were tax payers. That’s why they liked working with corporates because they sometimes had more effect than governmental departments do.

SRA: So if law firms make visible statements that would be what drives change?

GB: Yes absolutely.

SRA: Can you explain the X that is sometimes used in woman (i.e. womxn)? Have you come across that term before?

GB: Ya, I have seen that. That’s to accept trans women under the term.

SRA: Is there anything we need to look out for on social media if people are saying bad things about trans people?

Without being too graphic, but the anti-trans have red squares on Twitter. It’s because – without being too graphic – they’re saying they can have periods, whereas trans women can’t. And so they’re putting the red squares on there. That’s pretty hateful, pretty nasty.

R. Reese

That was too graphic, thank you very much. The red square represents: ‘No means no’. What a pathetic statement.

SRA: What about positive symbols for the trans community?

GB: Have conversations with other people, make sure your staff are trained, look at your internal systems and processes. GB can talk on a lot of other subjects other than being trans, i.e. being a lesbian, mental health issues, etc.

SRA: You’ve got intelligent things to say, not just being trans, haha. How can organisations promote intersectionality with respect to BAME, etc?

GB: I could sit on a panel as a woman or as a lesbian, or mental health. I just happen to be trans as well. So that brings the intersectionality together. Use lawyers who are visibly trans in your events. This will help other people to come out. Use your sector role models, not trans celebrities.

Proof that you are trans and non-binary inclusive equals projecting that into the job market and into the organisation internally, which includes ‘all-gendered loos’, non-gendered language, trans policies, coming to ally meetings and marching in Pride, applications forms should have more than two genders on it ‘if it’s asking for gender at all’. Organisations should also promote trans and non-binary rights on social media and marketing team, and train your HR team on unconscious bias, blah blah blah blah. Oh and train your security guards and your receptionists.

GB had recently advised a trans person seeking a job not to apply to a firm which did not have trans affirmative policies in place because they needed to go where they would be ‘loved’ and could excel at. The non-inclusive firm would lose out on that person’s skills.

SRA: I wish we could encourage firms to be more inclusive too, because it’s a shame that the individual has to choose. Lots of people say ‘prefer not to say’ under gender identity. Would there be value in doing an anonymous survey?

GB: Depends on whether people trust you and know how you will use the data and how you will report the outcome. If it isn’t set up properly then people will just answer ‘prefer not to say’. Free text fields are important, don’t try to classify all the (150) genders.

SRA: Any final thoughts? Hopefully nothing about JK Rowling. We shouldn’t debate this on social media because we can’t go anywhere with that, can you?

GB: There always time to say your piece and a time to be quiet and I think personally she’s now at a time when she just needs to be quiet. Last thought – be a great ally! Prepare for the government’s announcement which isn’t far away and is not likely to be good.

Solicitor Regulatory Authority: We will need to find out what we need to do with you, together, as allies. So we will do some research and educate ourselves.


I hope you’re all sufficiently learned!


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