‘Everyone’s a hero some time or other,’ laments 97 year old Louise Jennings, speaking on Look North. Assigned male at birth, Louise, who now resides in a Sheffield nursing home, was a Second World War veteran who fought on the beaches of Dunkirk. She underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1990 after the death of her wife of 40 years.

 ‘Turns out in the long run I wanted to be a woman’, she reflects.

Jack, an eighteen year old transgender man told me recently; ‘I just want to be accepted for who I am. I shouldn’t have to prove anything to a panel of people or pay for the right to be officially accepted.’

Two stories – generations apart. Fundamental to both, their longing, having accepted themselves, to be accepted by the rest of the world; to live without prejudice or abuse in the gender they choose. Transgender rights are human rights, yet are frequently portrayed as special rights which impinge on the rights of others.

Transgender people and allies are merely asking for their right to self-define and self-identify without having to go through a hugely intrusive, expensive and bureaucratic process – rights already granted in various other countries including Ireland and Malta.

Debate surrounding the consultation on the 2004 GRA attracted ill-informed, cruel and vitriolic attacks – the likes of which I have not witnessed for many years. Student areas of Sheffield leafleted by groups opposed to transgender rights.  A simple and basic human rights issue used to raise unnecessary fears among women – scaremongering tactics with little or no evidence with which to back them up. The Equality Act 2010 already allows transgender women to access women’s spaces and services in almost all circumstances without the need for a Gender Recognition Certificate or having received medical treatment. And there is little evidence of men adopting female roles in order to invade women’s spaces.

 We live in a patriarchal and increasingly divided society. Men physically and sexually abuse women – including transgender women – with impunity. Rather than opposing transgender rights, and long overdue law reform, let’s show some humanity and compassion. Our energies are much better spent confronting the structures and cultures of toxic masculinity which impact negatively on the lives of all of us!

Week beginning  January 11th 2019. Telegraph Voices: Discussing the Gender Recognition Act

Read more at: https://www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk/news/telegraph-voices-discussing-the-gender-recognition-act-1-9515121