A ROW has erupted over plans to make it easier for transgender people to choose their legal sex amid claims of scaremongering by Christian groups.

After the Christian Institute said the idea of a ‘third’ gender’ was “scientifically and morally illiterate”, Scottish transgender rights campaigners called the changes “a positive step forward for society”.

Transgender Trend, a parents group which questions the evidence for people being transgender and claims young people are being diagnosed because it is fashionable, also warned against the UK government’s plans to allow people who do not identify as male or female to seek recognition in official documents.

But a spokesman for the Scottish Trans Alliance said politicians, the public and the media had been more sympathetic in Scotland and said the group was saddened by some of the coverage in the English press.

As the Herald revealed in April 2016, the Scottish Government is to consult later this year over new arrangements making it more straightforward for someone to change the gender on their birth certificate, to lower the age at which this can be done and to allow a “third option” for those who do not identify either as male or female. At present, a birth certificate can only be changed by someone over 18, if they have lived in their acquired gender for two years and can supply supporting medical opinions.

In future it is proposed that non-binary people shoud be able to record their gender as ‘X’ if they self-identify as trans., as long as they make a statutory declaration that they intend to live in the new gender until death.

The UK Government has now agreed to consult on making similar changes to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act in the autumn.

The claims that have angered campaigners include the suggestion that transgender sports men and women could distort competition, particularly should those born as men compete in women’s events.

Former Scottish three-time Tour de France stage winner Robert Millar is now living as Philippa York following a gender transition. She competed as a man, but other transgender athletes have sought to compete as women after a transition.

This and other fears about use of changing rooms or women using spaces such as women’s refuges are unfounded, Scottish Trans said. Manager James Morton added: “A lot of these briefings are inaccurate. There are exemption in the Gender Recognition Act so that if a sport can show it is proportionate because of fairness they can stop some one participating. Meanwhile the Equality Act allows single sex services to make adaptations.”

Scottish Women’s Aid will help anyone who self-declares as a trans woman, he said. “If someone was early in transition it might not be suitable to house them in a refuge or involve them in groupwork.

“But there are other options. It isn’t that hard to come up with inclusive sensible solutions, without having to treat them as men and I don’t think it will cost significantly more.”

While the detail of the Scottish Government’s proposals are not confirmed yet, Scottish Trans is encouraged by discussions with officials, who have taken on board their three main demands. These are to allow birth certificates to be changed, including the option of not declaring as either gender, and to lower the age at which someone can seek to have their birth certificate altered. “Conversations with civil servants have been extremely positive,” Mr Morton said.

Meanwhile he said developments such as the introduction of gender neutral toilets in all Glasgow primary schools are helping allay fears about such changes, he claimed.

“The evidence is that this helps the whole school population, not just the small number who may be trans. There has been a reduction in general bullying and grafitti - that is what Glasgow has found.”

However he warned against allowing the debate about trans recognition to develop in the direction it has in the US under Donald Trump. People with concerns about transgender people using public changing rooms or toilets are misguided as the law has never prevented this anyway, he added.

“They may think they haven’t beenin a toilet with a trans person but actually, they have and they just haven’t realised.”