The overwhelming support the public has for trans people has restored my faith in Britain. But there’s still so much more to be done

Lynne Featherstone: Public support for trans people has restored my faith

British Liberal Democrat and former equalities minister Lynne Featherstone writes for PinkNews about how, with a harsh rollback on trans rights looming and billionaires spouting mistruths, the news that women overwhelmingly support self-identification provides welcome solace.

My faith in the British people is once again restored and reaffirmed by the PinkNews commissioned YouGov poll last week that showed that 57 per cent of British women support trans people being able to identify as they wish.

It was sorely needed following the vicious attacks that rained down on the trans community from on high.

JK Rowling clearly, despite a verbose and extended explanation of her views, does not appear to truly understand trans people and the challenges they face.

So much anger. Such lack of empathy. So little understanding.

The fear raised by a small but vocal minority of cis women that somehow trans women who self-identify in future under an amended Gender Recognition Act will enable men pretending to be women to get into single-sex spaces to do cis women harm is dangerous, unkind, unreasonable and wrong. Any man pretending to be a woman to do that is a male criminal not a trans woman.

Let’s take out the heat of battle and try and understand why the proposal to amend the 2004 Gender Recognition Act was consulted on in the first place.

The Act as it stands expects an arduous and long journey through psychiatry and medical processes, which may or may not be something a person wanting to transition wishes to pursue. Just as with every human condition – there is a spectrum of what and how people feel about themselves.

Not everyone wants hormones or surgery. The current system also implies being trans is a mental illness, despite government statements in 2002 and 2014, and international medicine also moving away from that definition.

Moreover, it only allows for male and female with no reference to non-binary people.

We need to make it easier for those wishing to identify in another gender to do so. That is what the consultation is about.

It will still be a legal process. You will need legal certification. It is not a matter of pretending for a nefarious purpose.

In fact, doing so with the intent to commit a crime is likely to increase any sentence imposed.

The whole public row is upsetting and unnecessary.

The law, as always, when it is in place will be tested. Precedents will be set. The Equality Act will remain intact.

Surely as a human race, we are capable of enabling people to live as they wish so long as they do no harm?

There are few people more scared or vulnerable than trans women and right now they feel more scared and more vulnerable than I have ever known.

We owe a great deal to those trans women who put their heads above the parapet to fight the haters and the transphobes: Christine Burns, Paris Lees and Helen Belcher to name but three.

They must be so tired of being patient and trying to bring understanding to those who perhaps don’t really want to understand or learn.

After all – it is much harder to keep prejudice going against truths.

We all need to remember what the gay community faced when fighting for equal rights.

Now we all need to stand with the trans community as they suffer the same kinds of abuse on top of the often physical price of just wanting to be themselves.