Adjunct Professor Alex Sharpe Making A Difference Through Research on Transgender Law Reform

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Adjunct Professor Alex Sharpe from Keele University (UK) is is making a significant difference through her research on transgender law reform and transgender legal issues. For over two decades, Professor Sharpe has been involved in the advocacy and activism for the transgender community and has used her expertise to provide advice to various government agencies and departments, members of parliament, law firms, public interest advoacy organisations and different professional bodies, both in the UK and internationally. Recent examples include:

Professor Sharpe’s current research project addresses itself to one contemporary flashpoint in ongoing debates over (i) the proper reach of the criminal law, (ii) the ethicality of sexual conduct, and (iii) the nature of gender and sexual identity and desire. Triggered by the successful prosecution of a series of young transgender people who did not disclose their gender history to cisgender sexual partners prior to sexual intimacy (R v McNally [2013] EWCA Crim 1051; R v Wilson, Unreported; R v Barker [2012] Unreported), (two of whom were imprisoned and all of whom have been placed on the Sex Offenders Register for Life), the project aims to enter these various debates through an analysis and critique of legal and ethical judgement as it pertains to sexually active, yet reticent transgender people.

The project will challenge the criminalisation of desire-led cisgender/transgender intimacy. In doing so, it will enter into debates over the meaning and scope of some key legal concepts: ‘consent,’ ‘harm,’ ‘deception.’ In convicting transgender people of sexual offences in the circumstances described, law has determined complainant consent to be absent, and harm and deception to be present. The project will challenge each of these determinations. It will argue that ‘apparent consent’ should be treated as legal consent, calculations of harm should factor in potential and actual harms to transgender people associated with disclosure of gender history, and that deception discourse is both mistaken and offensive to transgender people.

Moreover, it will argue that there are overarching public policy objections to criminalisation:

  • Criminalisation produces legal inconsistency,
  • Sexual autonomy should not be viewed as an unlimited right or a trump card in rights conflicts,
  • The need to ameliorate/avoid reproducing transphobia

For more information on Professor Sharpe’s ongoing research and achievements, click here. 

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