Wrap your mind round this one...Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004, a transperson can, if they meet the defined criteria, obtain legal recognition of their “acquired gender”*. This is followed by rights to marry, get a new birth certificate, and generally (subject to a few exceptions, which I may get into another day) be treated in the same way as people who were born in the acquired gender.

[*I’m going to use the expression “acquired gender” as a kind of shorthand to refer to people acquiring, as a matter of law, recognition of what they believe is their true gender – and also because this is the expression used in the Act. I don’t mean to suggest anything else.]

Before this Act, insurance companies were allowed to set premiums based on the birth-assigned gender of a transsexual person because there was no legal recognition of the person’s acquired gender. MtF transsexuals could be charged “male” rates for car insurance and life insurance, for example, no matter how long they had lived as women and no matter whether they were out in real life. No more. The current rules are that if you have a policy at the time when you get legal recognition of your gender then that policy can continue at the existing rates (based on your previous legal gender) BUT any new policy you apply for will have to be offered at the rates applicable to your acquired gender.

This has prompted some grumbling in the insurance sector. Life insurance is usually cheaper for women because they have a longer life expectancy. Some suggest that “just because a man has had a sex change operation does not mean his life expectancy will suddenly go up to match the life expectancy of a woman”, and therefore that it is unfair on insurers to force them to charge “female” rates on a “male” risk. Similarly, car insurance is usually cheaper for women and health insurance is usually cheaper for men. “Just because you’ve had the op” doesn’t mean your risk profile from an insurer’s point of view has changed – so the argument goes, such as it is.

I recently had cause in my professional capacity to explain to someone why this is all bigotry and horse-poo.

The actuarial statistics used to determine whether men or women are more likely to die young, have car crashes, fall ill or generally make a nuisance of themselves to insurers are based on HUGE samples. While they are statistically accurate at huge sample level, they completely fail to take into account individual characteristics. So much is obvious – statistics tell you trends, not truths. We all know of countless “exceptions” to statistical “rules”, particularly where these “rules” are as sweeping as actuarial tables tend to be. Actuarial statistics, however huge the sample on which they are based, are not destiny. And, in fact, there are no actuarial statistics on the life expectancy of transpeople of either/any gender. There are no actuarial statistics on the likelihood of a transperson falling ill or having a car crash. None.

So why should we assume that a transperson’s actuarial likelihood of making any given type of insurance claim should be based on their birth-assigned gender rather than their acquired gender? What factual basis is there for any such assumption? There is none. There is no objective reason to think this way. There is only bigotry and ignorance – and horse-poo.

(All this of course begs the question of whether it is reasonable and fair to assess insurance premiums based on gender characteristics AT ALL, but I don’t want to go there today.)

So, as I mentioned, I recently got the opportunity to explain this to someone in the course of my work, and perhaps to pass a little enlightenment their way. I found it extremely satisfying to do this, and had that warm glowing feeling of rattling patriarchy’s tool-shed again. Good old me!

And then I had the thought that is really behind this post:
Do I get a cookie now?