IT’S a scary time to be transgender in the UK. The last time I felt this level of vulnerability was when I was a trans teenager in the 1990s, when Section 28 still prevented teachers from providing any LGBT information and before trans people won any legal protections from discrimination.

Rationally I know the vast majority of Scots are not prejudiced against trans people and want us to be able to live safely and authentically. However, it feels very different as I read daily negative press coverage and delete comments from the Scottish Trans Alliance Facebook page making threats of violence and accusations of sexual perversion against trans people.

I feel on edge and emotionally raw as I see people questioning my legitimacy and calling for my legal rights to be rolled back. Yet I’m one of the least vulnerable trans people in Scotland – I’m a middle-class, healthy trans man who works in the equalities sector. My trans women friends are far more distressed and some are too anxious to go out to the shops, let alone risk entering a public toilet or changing room. It is all too easy for fear to turn to anger, for people to shout rather than talk.

Scotland’s media and equalities professionals have the opportunity to lead the way in calming fears on all sides. Let’s focus on facts rather than making negative presumptions about the motivations behind people’s opinions. Let’s go beyond soundbites and widen out to the general public the thoughtful decade of balanced dialogue there has already been between trans and feminist equality organisations.

Sadly, there have been misunderstandings about trans rights in some recent media coverage. In particular, it is incorrect to claim that the proposed simplification of the application process for legal gender recognition would reduce being legally a woman to a mere feeling. The reform will still require a trans woman to be living her everyday life as a woman, using female pronouns and with her other identity documents also recording her as female in order to change her birth certificate to match her life. It is just the insulting and pathologising psychiatric report and submission of two years’ worth of bank statements and utility bills that should be scrapped. Not the need to live daily in your gender identity. The legal statutory declaration is a sworn oath that you have started authentically living in your gender identity and intend to remain doing so until death.

Likewise, the Scottish trans-inclusive definition of “woman” for the purpose of gender representation on public boards requires a trans woman to be living as a woman. Such trans women will be read by the rest of society either simply as women, and hence experience sexism like other women do, or as visibly trans women, and hence experience sexism that includes negative reactions about their trans status.

There has also been a lot of confusion about single sex-services. It is incorrect to conflate changing a birth certificate with access to single-sex services. No single-sex services in Scotland require sight of a birth certificate or a gender recognition certificate in order to determine who can use them. This has been the case for many decades, with the Equality Act 2010 formalising trans people’s legal rights to use services. Where there are cubicles to maintain privacy, it is unreasonable to exclude trans people – even Republican legislators in Texas have conceded that bathroom bans are draconian. It is already a criminal offence for anyone, whatever their legal sex or physical body, to behave in an exhibitionist or voyeuristic manner. Including trans people does not mean anyone having to tolerate any inappropriate behaviour.

There is certainly room for civil discussion about how to uphold and improve privacy, dignity and safety for everyone, especially regarding the complex situation of managing trans people in prison. Scottish Trans Alliance supports the use of comprehensive risk assessments.

Where a single-sex service lacks privacy or has vulnerable service users, there is no absolute right of inclusion for trans people, even if they have a gender recognition certificate. Legally, any exclusion due to a person being trans needs to be justified case-by-case – it cannot be a blanket ban. This has been working smoothly since 2010 and the UK and Scottish Governments have ruled out making any changes to this aspect of the Equality Act. Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland have been trans inclusive for several years without problems by using careful individualised needs assessments. They support reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

Despite the online arguments about what counts as freedom of speech, the democratic process has meant all viewpoints have been able to be submitted as part of the consultation. We are confident careful consideration of all the submissions will confirm the safety of reforming the Gender Recognition Act. We are committed to working constructively with Scotland’s women’s sector, public bodies, the media and the general public to ensure there are no negative consequences.

James Morton is Scottish Trans Alliance Manager.