Sex reassignment surgery offered to employees for Lloyds banking group; British minister lauds controversial move

Britain's Minister for Women and Equalities lauded Lloyds Banking Group for its initiative to offer their employees access to private sex reassignment surgery.

A man holds a flag as he takes part in an annual Gay Pride Parade in Toronto June 28, 2009. | REUTERS/Mark Blinch

"I think it's really important. It's important that big companies and organisations like Lloyds are leading the way, and I congratulate them on doing so," Minister Nicky Morgan said during an interview with Pink News. "I don't think anybody enters into gender reassignment or any other kind of surgery lightly, but I think it's really important."

Lloyds Banking Group, which is the first U.K. employer to have such a policy, made the announcement early last month, saying that this is available for any permanent staff member employed in mainland U.K. who is a subscriber of the company's healthcare plans. The surgery, should they wish to have one, is to be provided via Bupa. This private provision, director of operations Karin Cook said, will allow employees to access the service much sooner as it takes as long as 36 months using another provision.

"We want to be inclusive to all colleagues and we felt that our current healthcare provision was excluding certain conditions which were very important to people, particularly in the support for some of the mental health issues that colleagues suffer," Cook told Pink News in an earlier interview "So it was essential that we were able to extend that to cover to people with gender dysphoria."

However, The Christian Institute said that sex change does more harm to an individual in the long term. Deputy director for public affairs Simon Calvert said that trans people need patient help in order to assist them "to come to terms with reality."

"Sex change surgery doesn't resolve the underlying conflicts felt by people with gender dysphoria," he said. "It is cruel to make them believe that surgery, or 'non-gendering' of official records, will solve all their problems. It won't. This is borne out by the tragically high suicide rate for people who have had a sex change operation."

In an earlier interview with the group, author and former transexual Walt Heyer, who had undergone the surgery and changed back after eight years, told them he discovered that his condition was psychological rather than medical, and that hormones and surgery are "not appropriate treatment."

Morgan, meanwhile, said that trans issues are now getting wide coverage, something that is welcomed, and society is obliged to take steps to help the community.

"One of the things that strikes me every time I meet someone who has an interest in this is they want to be who they are," Morgan said. "We have an obligation as a society to help that, and steps like Lloyds have taken are really important in recognising that."

According to Pink News, Lloyds has around 830 employees in the U.K. who are trans, and some of them might want to undergo sex reassignment. They expect about 20 of their employees to be the first to take up what they are offering through their new healthcare scheme. Kimberley Bird, the Deputy Co-Chair of the Rainbow Network, also said that it would surprising if other companies did not follow suit.

Under the umbrella of the Lloyds Banking Group are Lloyds Bank, Halifax, Bank of Scotland, and Scottish Widows.