Non-Binary Equality Working Group: report and recommendations - March 2022

The Working Group on Non-Binary Equality was formed by the Scottish Government to consider ways to improve the lives of non-binary people. This report is the result of their work, including 35 detailed recommendations covering practical ways to make a lasting, meaningful difference.

Access to Services

The third substantive meeting of the working group looked at non-binary people's access to services. We identified four key themes:

  • Support services – particularly services dealing with housing and homelessness
  • Crisis services – particularly services addressing gender-based violence
  • Sport
  • Education

Initially, all four themes were discussed at a whole meeting of the working group. Each theme was then discussed at subgroup meetings, which were attended by members with a particular interest, and by invited participants with relevant expertise. Scottish Trans and LGBT Youth Scotland also held community engagement events on the topic with non-binary people. The views shared at these were fed into discussions of the group. We have grouped recommendations in a way not entirely aligned with the subgroup meetings, as some recommendations relate to the provision of all services.

Non-binary people who are marginalised in multiple ways, such as non-binary people of colour, and disabled non-binary people, face even greater barriers to accessing services. Throughout these recommendations, it is important that actions to improve non-binary people's access to services reflect this reality, and meaningfully engage with non-binary people who experience multiple forms of marginalisation.

Building design

27. Review building regulations to ensure that public spaces are useable and accessible for all, and provide funding to ensure that modern accessible buildings are available across Scotland

Building design is a common barrier for non-binary people accessing services and participating in public life. For example, spaces used for sport and leisure are often highly gendered, such as through providing exclusively male or female changing facilities and toilets. These spaces often embed gendered assumptions in their design and use, such as in which gym equipment may be used by men and women.[39] Similarly, in education settings, facilities are often designated as exclusively for girls/women or boys/men. This can provide barriers to non-binary young people's participation.

While there are specific impacts of building design on non-binary people, this is of course also the case for many marginalised groups, many of whom will not have been centred, consulted, or considered in the development of building regulations. Women, disabled people, and people of certain faiths or beliefs can face barriers to participation in building design. Review of building regulations should consult broadly to make improvements.

Some of the changes that would benefit non-binary people would benefit other groups as well. For example, the provision of more gender-neutral toilets can benefit disabled people with carers of a different gender, as well as single parents with children of a different gender.[40]

The Scottish Government should engage with a broad range of stakeholders to explore what needs to change in building design to ensure that all people can truly access and use public spaces, including leisure facilities and schools. Necessary changes to building regulations should be made, and funding should be provided to ensure that refurbishments can be made to existing buildings, so that all spaces are accessible.

Crisis and support services

28. Introduce a homelessness prevention pathway specifically focused on LGBTI+ young people

LGBTI+ people, particularly young people, are at increased risk of homelessness. In 2017, Stonewall found that 18% of LGBT people had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, rising to 24% of trans people.[41] Research in 2015 from the Albert Kennedy Trust found that 24% of homeless young people in the UK are LGBT, and that 69% of them will be homeless due to familial rejection, abuse and violence.[42] Albert Kennedy Trust's more recent research found that trans young people can face specific issues around family abuse before becoming homeless, such as being prevented from expressing their LGBT identity or having abusive content published about them online.[43] LGBT Youth Scotland's Housing and Homelessness Commission found a range of related issues, such as LGBTI+ young people having negative experiences of coming out, trans young people being turned away from single-sex accommodation, and professionals in the sector lacking confidence in their ability to support LGBTI+ young people.[44]

Current legislation on housing and homelessness, and the Scottish Government's "Ending Homelessness Together: updated action plan October 2020", both fail to address the specific vulnerabilities and barriers that LGBTI+ young people face. For example, in assessing need for accommodation, local authorities may seek to determine if someone is "intentionally" homeless, but in doing so may exclude an LGBTI+ young person who left a family home in which they experienced rejection and abuse. Similarly, while the focus on domestic abuse within the strategy is vital, it does not consider the specific ways in which LGBTI+ young people and adults experience abuse, especially when they are living with family members who subject them to homophobic, biphobic or transphobic rejection.

A specific homelessness prevention pathway focused on LGBTI+ young people should be introduced into the Ending Homelessness Together: updated action plan October 2020. This should include work to explore and understand the specific risks faced by LGBTI+ young people, updates to the action plan to reflect these, and funding to ensure that these issues are addressed and LGBTI+ youth homelessness is ended.

29. Embed the needs of non-binary children, and all LGBTI+ children, into the delivery of a Bairns' Hoose in Scotland

The Scottish Government's vision of a "Bairns' Hoose" is that "all children in Scotland who have been victims or witnesses to abuse or violence, as well as children under the age of criminal responsibility whose behaviour has caused significant harm or abuse, will have access to trauma-informed recovery, support and justice."[45]

Non-binary children, and indeed all LGBTI+ children, can face specific barriers when accessing such crisis support.[46] These include:

  • Not having transphobia or rejection from family members being counted as types of violence and abuse.
  • Services disclosing a child's trans or non-binary status against their wishes when sharing information between professionals and parents/guardians, which may place children at greater risk.
  • Encountering services and support, such as temporary foster care, that are poorly equipped to understand and support LGBTI+ children, sometimes furthering their experiences of transphobia, homophobia, or biphobia.

The Scottish Government should include stakeholders specialising in LGBTI+ equality, and centre the needs of LGBTI+ children themselves, in further developing their vision for a Bairns' Hoose in Scotland. This should include a scoping exercise to understand the specific detriment that non-binary children (and all LGBTI+ children) may experience, both as victims or witnesses to abuse or violence, and when accessing services as a result. This will ensure that when this vision is delivered by 2025, non-binary children, and all LGBTI+ children, will truly benefit.

30. Include non-binary people in Scottish Government strategies, policy frameworks, and resource allocation designed to eradicate gender-based violence

Trans and non-binary people can face significant barriers when accessing gender-based violence services.[47] Trans people of all genders experience higher rates of gender-based violence than the general population, and as such it is crucial that they are able to access services and support for survivors.[48]

Services, information, and support for survivors are designed and described as either "for women", or less frequently "for men", in almost all circumstances. This means non-binary survivors are often unsure whether they are entitled to access specific services. Additionally, and even more significantly, it means that non-binary survivors are often unsure whether services will provide suitable support or address their specific experiences of gender-based violence.

Such barriers are exacerbated by the current Scottish Government policy framework to tackle gender-based violence in Scotland. Typically, this names gender-based violence experienced by women and girls on the one hand, and men and boys on the other, distinctly and exclusively, and therefore leaves the experiences and needs of non-binary survivors obscured and unaccounted for.[49]

We are not calling for the policy framework to eradicate gender-based violence to be made gender-neutral. We wholly support the entirely appropriate focus on women and girls, which is a result of taking a necessarily gendered analysis of gender-based violence. However, we also seek to include non-binary people and wider gender diversity in this gendered analysis, so that actions to eradicate gender-based violence in Scotland are taken with a fuller picture. This would include the understanding discussed here that gender-based violence structurally targets gender minorities (including trans men and non-binary people) alongside women and girls.

Because the current incomplete picture of gender-based violence impacts survivors attempting to access services or support, as discussed above. It also means that there is no specific resourcing of specialist services focused on gender-based violence experienced by trans and non-binary people.

The Scottish Government should work with relevant expert stakeholders, especially survivors of gender-based violence, to widen the gendered analysis the Scottish Government uses in policy frameworks and strategy in this area. This could be done through a specific short-life working group, commissioning research, or by any other steps considered necessary. This work should be used to ensure that trans and non-binary people are included in Scottish Government policy frameworks to eradicate gender-based violence, and that resources are made available to ensure that specific specialist support services are available where appropriate.

Any funding of specialist services should be in addition to, and alongside, an improvement in access to "mainstream" services for trans survivors. It vitally important that trans and non-binary survivors are not forced to access only segregated services, which would be discriminatory and could exacerbate existing issues, but that both mainstream and gender minority specific services are available and well-resourced.

31. Improve data collection on sex/gender, sexual orientation and trans status within support and crisis services

There is a lack of data available across support and crisis services relating to LGBTI+ people. This contributes to poor experiences in these services and poor resourcing of specialist services. Factors contributing to this lack of data across support and crisis services include:

  • Only providing male/female response options when asking about sex/gender
  • Not routinely monitoring sexual orientation
  • Not routinely monitoring trans status or history

A crucial step to addressing trans and non-binary people's increased vulnerability to homelessness and gender-based violence is ensuring there is good quality information about our use of services. As outlined in recommendation 18, questions on trans status should be voluntary, to ensure that people are not obligated to disclose this information in order to be able to access a service, which would create significant barriers for many people in doing so.

Scottish Government should ensure that crisis and support services are collecting the appropriate data they need on sex/gender, sexual orientation, and trans status and history. This should include a question on sex/gender that allows non-binary people to be recorded as non-binary.


32. Agree key policy principles, underpinned by equality and human rights considerations, on how to improve participation in sport and leisure for trans and non-binary people

Trans and non-binary people face consistent barriers to participating in sport and leisure. Sport is often heavily gendered, built on the assumption that all people taking part are either men or women. This can cause specific barriers to non-binary people, who may have their identity ignored or disbelieved by organisations, or who may have experienced discrimination and abuse in the sporting community, rather than an open welcome.[50],[51] 54% of trans people feel excluded from particular sports, or have at some point stopped participating in a sport as a result of discrimination around their gender identity.[52] 46% of trans people active in sport report negative experiences over the preceding 12 months.[53]

Sports governing bodies, sports clubs and leisure services are often unsure about how to treat non-binary people, and both LEAP Sports Scotland and Scottish Trans are often asked to provide support and advice on this topic. According to sportscotland research, gender reassignment is the protected characteristic which sports governing bodies understand the least.[54]

When talking about trans and non-binary people in sport, focus tends to be given to elite-level competition and eligibility requirements. However, for most people, participation in sport and leisure happens far from these concerns: rather, their interests are in joining a local running club or using their nearest gym. Policy support and advice about trans and non-binary people's participation in sport and leisure should reflect this reality.

The UK-wide Sports Council Equality Group's "Review into transgender inclusion in domestic sport in the UK" was published in September 2021.[55] We agree with LEAP Sports that this guidance is harmful, and would increase, rather than decrease, barriers to trans and non-binary people, particularly trans women, participating in sport.[56] The Sports Council Equality Group's guidance should be withdrawn.

Instead, the Scottish Government should agree key policy principles on how to improve participation for trans and non-binary people, and place equality and human rights considerations at the heart of the policy framework.

33. Fund specific work to reduce barriers to trans and non-binary people's participation in sport

We welcome the commitment in the Scottish Government's 2021 Programme for Government to increase investment in sport and active living, and the stated intention to work with sportscotland and other partners to ensure that this will address existing unequal access to sport and active living.[57] Given the range of barriers that trans and non-binary people can face to participating in sport and active living, and given the widespread lack of awareness and understanding of these barriers identified by sportscotland, it is important that the equal access of trans and non-binary people be properly considered.

Decisions around this increased investment must be driven by meaningful consultation with relevant communities, including trans and non-binary people. This will ensure that the benefits of the additional investment are felt by all, and that specific targeted funding can be made available to address existing inequalities in trans and non-binary people's access to sport and active living, such as by providing training for sports groups and service providers on how to welcome trans and non-binary people into sporting communities.


These recommendations were shaped by a paper submitted to the subgroup by LGBT Youth Scotland. This paper summarised the results of LGBT Youth Scotland's survey about non-binary experiences, which was sent out to 20 schools they work with, largely in Edinburgh and Glasgow, for non-binary pupils to complete. It also included reflections from LGBT Youth Scotland's wider consultation work with LGBTI+ young people, and their experience of working with both young people and schools to improve all LGBTI+ young people's inclusion and experience while learning. As much as possible, these recommendations reflect the experiences and priorities of these non-binary young people themselves.

34. Work with the developers of SEEMiS to (a) ensure that there are options other than male or female for recording pupils, alongside a field for recording pronouns; (b) review automatic linking from SEEMiS; and (c) produce updated guidance for schools to reflect these changes

Non-binary young people frequently point out that the requirement to be recorded as male or female on SEEMiS is a considerable barrier to them participating equally at school. This issue has been raised for many years, both by non-binary young people themselves, and by schools and local authorities across Scotland.

This issue means that teachers and staff can be unaware of a pupil's gender identity, and so the pupil may be required to come out repeatedly, and to many members of staff, in order to have their identity recognised and respected. Being recorded as either male or female means that pupils are much more likely to experience misunderstanding or misgendering from teachers and staff, who are interacting with them on the basis of accessing incorrect information about them on SEEMiS.

An update to SEEMiS should also include a new optional field in which pupils may have their pronouns recorded. This would give pupils who want teachers to be aware of their pronouns the ability to do so more easily, and it would give teachers the confidence that they are addressing pupils in a respectful way. Pupils should be able to have the details recorded in this field updated on request.

The functionality of automatic linking from SEEMiS should also be reviewed. This review should include working with SQA to ensure that any update to allow pupils to be recorded as something other than male or female is compatible with their administrative systems. If the current administrative systems used by SQA present barriers, then the Scottish Government should also work with SQA to ensure that pupils can be recorded as something other than male or female when completing their exams.

As a further issue, if pupils use a different "known as" name at school, or if their pronouns are recorded in the register, this information may be shared with unsupportive parents or guardians, disclosing pupils' trans or non-binary status when it is not safe to do so. A review of when and how information recorded on SEEMiS is shared with parents or guardians should identify such issues, and consider making information sharing of a small number of fields, such as the "known as" and recommended pronouns field optional. If a review concluded that this was genuinely not suitable due to safeguarding, then schools should ensure that non-binary pupils (and indeed all trans pupils) are aware of how details on their SEEMiS record would be shared with parents or guardians, so that young people are able to make informed decisions about whether they wish to request updates to their information.

There should be updated guidance produced on how to use the new functionality on SEEMiS once the above changes have been implemented. This could be done via updating the relevant sections of "Supporting Transgender Pupils in Schools: Guidance for Scottish Schools",[58] but should be communicated to all schools across Scotland using SEEMiS, to ensure that teachers and staff are confident in using the updates, and that all non-binary pupils can benefit from the changes.

35. Evaluate the ongoing work of implementing LGBT Inclusive Education after one year, collaboratively with non-binary pupils, to investigate the specific impact of the work for them, and any changes needed to ensure that they equally benefit from the work in the future

We welcome the work of the Scottish Government and partners to embed LGBT Inclusive Education across the Scottish curriculum. Many of the issues raised by the non-binary young people LGBT Youth Scotland consult with and support should be addressed by the implementation of this programme.[59] For example, non-binary young people raised issues such as being unable to come out due to a lack of a supportive whole school environment, experiencing prejudice-based bullying, and having their identities and experiences excluded from the Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood curriculum.

Non-binary young people's identities are particularly poorly understood by teachers and staff at schools, as well as by their peers, and non-binary young people are not always well-represented in information and resources aimed at LGBT inclusion. The work of implementing LGBT Inclusive Education should therefore be evaluated after one year, in collaboration with non-binary pupils themselves. This evaluation should consider the specific impact of the work for non-binary young people. If needed, again in collaboration with non-binary young people, changes and improvements to resources, training modules, advice, and information for schools should be made, to ensure that non-binary young people can equally benefit from embedding LGBT Inclusive Education across the curriculum.



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