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Reimagining Gender Through Equality Law: What Legal Thoughtways Do Religion and Disability Offer?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Flora Renz, Davina Cooper

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-155
Number of pages27
JournalFeminist Legal Studies
Issue number2
Early online date20 Jan 2022
Accepted/In press26 Oct 2021
E-pub ahead of print20 Jan 2022
PublishedJul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This article is based on research conducted as part of the ESRC funded project, The Future of Legal Gender, 2018-2022, award number ES/P008968/1. Our analysis has benefited from ongoing discussions about gender and law reform with Emily Grabham, Elizabeth Peel, Robyn Emerton, Han Newman, Jessica Smith—colleagues who have worked with us on the project. We are also deeply grateful to Avi Boukli, Didi Herman, Kate Malleson, and Lucy Vickers for very helpful feedback on earlier drafts; and to the anonymous reviewers of the paper for Feminist Legal Studies. Publisher Copyright: © 2022, The Author(s).

King's Authors


British equality law protections for sex and gender reassignment have grown fraught as activists tussle over legal and social categories of gender, gender transitioning, and sex. This article considers the future of gender-related equality protections in relation to ‘decertification’—an imagined reform that would detach sex and gender from legal personhood. One criticism of decertification is that de-formalising gender membership would undermine equality law protections. This article explores how gender-based equality law could operate in conditions of decertification, drawing on legal thoughtways developed for two other protected characteristics in equality law—religion and belief, and disability—to explore the legal responses and imaginaries that these two grounds make available. Religious equality law focuses on beliefs, communities, and practices, deemed to be stable, multivarious, and subject to deep personal commitment. Disability equality law focuses on embodied disadvantage, approached as social, relational, and fluctuating. While these two equality frameworks have considerable limitations, they offer legal thoughtways for gender oriented to both its hierarchies and its expression, including as disavowal.

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