This piece is part of a two-week discussion on trans issues. Click here to view all essays.

A week into our two-week discussion on transgender identities, it’s time to take stock. Since we kicked off on the day that Britain’s government launched a public consultation on its plans to update the Gender Recognition Act, several of our participants took the opportunity to argue for or against the proposal to allow people who wish to change the sex stated on such official documents as birth certificates and passports to do so by making a simple statutory declaration, rather than requiring the testimony of doctors, as now. Vic Valentine and Emily Brothers argued that the change would streamline a slow and bureaucratic process, and give trans people more autonomy by ending unnecessary medical gatekeeping. Kristina Harrison and Debbie Hayton, however, argued that it would harm both women and transgender people themselves.

Though our participants ranged wide, their arguments were, of course, not exhaustive.

Charlie Kiss used his own life story as a refutation of the common claim that a trans man is simply a “lesbian in disguise”. Pippa Fleming explained why she thinks the new language of gender identity and fluidity are erasing lesbian identity. Sarah Ditum argued that supposedly inclusive language, such as “people with cervixes”, in fact serves to exclude many women, and makes it harder to name and discuss the ways in which women are still oppressed. James Kirkup described his experience of writing about trans issues without attracting the vitriol that is heaped on female journalists who do so. My colleague Adam Smith, our audience engagement editor, drew a parallel between gay and trans identities. Gay people gained political power by naming themselves and forging a common identity, he says, and trans people will, too. We thank all our participants, and the readers who offered interesting and insightful comments on our website and on social media. Tomorrow we will publish a wrap-up of some of the points they raised.

Though our participants ranged wide, their arguments were, of course, not exhaustive. Perhaps no set of ten viewpoints on something as complex and varied as trans identities could be. But it was also hard to get people to participate. Several of those we invited told us that none of these issues should even be up for discussion. We forged ahead, however, partly because of our commitment to the liberal value of open debate but also because, like it or not, trans issues are up for discussion, as a matter of simple fact.

Gender self-identification is not the law of the land in most places, and laws in democracies are everybody’s business. Anyone can respond to the government proposals in Britain’s public consultation, whether trans or not. When we commissioned Ms Brothers’s essay, she made an interesting distinction. Her own journey and identity, she said, were indeed not up for discussion, but as a politician she recognised that public policy certainly is.

The public is only now waking up to the way gender identity is evolving, both socially and legally. Few people have even started to think about the consequences of switching from categorising people according to a doctor’s determination of their biological sex at birth, to categorising them according to their self-declared feelings about which group they belong to: men or women. There is a great gulf between what seems self-evident to student equality officers and in gender-studies departments, and what seems self-evident elsewhere.

The public is only now waking up to the way gender identity is evolving, both socially and legally.

In my experience even people who declare themselves trans allies and committed to social justice, non-discrimination and inclusion, may hesitate if asked whether they think natal males who have been through male puberty before declaring themselves women should be allowed to compete in women’s sporting events, or whether natal males who have been convicted of violent or sexual offences against women should be eligible for transfer to a women’s prison if they switch gender identity during their sentences. Many people are also surprised to discover that natal males who retain male genitalia but identify as women are, if they are sexually attracted to women, regarded in activist circles as lesbians. If any of this makes you bristle—whether because you take all these propositions as self-evident or because you think they are ludicrous—I urge you to test them on people of various ages and political leanings.

This divide is also visible in representative politics. All three of Britain’s three main parties support a shift to gender self-identification, for example, and yet a recent survey by YouGov for Pink News, an online publication aimed at LGBT+ people, found that just 18% of voters did. Of course, majorities are not necessarily right—at various times and in various places majorities have been in favour of slavery and against votes for women. But in a liberal democracy, the right way forward is free and open discussion. Whichever viewpoint is to prevail, the arguments for differing sides need to be made.