Adults will be able to choose their sex legally without the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria under government plans.
Men will be able to identify themselves as women – and women as men – and have their birth certificates change to record their new gender.
Minister for Women and Equalities Justine Greening said she wanted to cut the stigma faced by transpeople.
At present they have to provide evidence that they have been in transition for at least two years before they can apply to legally change their gender.
Reforms to help transgender people choose their legal sex, which include speeding up the bureaucratic process, will go out to consultation in the autumn.
It comes after Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this week suggested she was preparing to reform the Gender Recognition Act, saying that ‘when it comes to rights and protections for trans people, there is still a long way to go’.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said May would have his support if she allowed transpeople to ‘self-identify’ their gender.
He said legislation could be passed with Labour’s backing, despite the prime minster’s deal with the socially conservative DUP.
However critics warned it could lead to legal cases over access to women-only hospital wards, prisons and rape crisis centres.
Stephanie Davies-Arai of Transgender Trend, a parents’ group, told the Sunday Times: ‘This has huge implications for women. There will be legal cases. The most worrying thing is if any man can identify as a woman with no tests and gain access to spaces where women might be getting undressed or feel vulnerable — like women’s hospital wards, refuges and rape crisis centres — women will just stop going to these facilities.’
Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute said: ‘It is worrying when the leaders of the main political parties are so out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people.
‘We need to inject a dose of reality into these discussions about transgenderism before the current political fashion runs away with us altogether.
‘Allowing men to self-identify as female without any medical diagnosis allows them to invade the privacy of women and girls. Where this policy has been tried in the US, women and young girls have experienced the fear and humiliation of finding themselves sharing toilet and changing facilities with men.
‘Transgender people aren’t the only people with rights. Women have rights too.
‘If politicians believe we can redefine our own gender at will, it’s no wonder others are following this to its logical conclusion and advocating transracialism and even transageism. It’s time for a reality check. Some things can’t be changed.’
Ms Greening, who is in a relationship with a woman, said the Government was building on the progress on tackling prejudice made in the 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.
The Sexual Offences Act 1967 made private homosexual acts between men over the age of 21 legal.
The current need to be assessed and diagnosed by clinicians is seen as an intrusive requirement by the trans community.
Ms Greening said: ‘This government is committed to building an inclusive society that works for everyone, no matter what their gender or sexuality and today we’re taking the next step forward.
‘We will build on the significant progress we have made over the past 50 years, tackling some of the historic prejudices that still persist in our laws and giving LGBT people a real say on the issues affecting them.’
Suzanna Hopwood, a member of the Stonewall Trans Advisory Group, said: ‘I am really pleased that the Government is making good on its commitment to review the Gender Recognition Act. Reform is one of the key priorities in our vision for removing the huge inequalities that trans people face in the UK.
‘The current system is demeaning and broken. It’s vital that this reform removes the requirements for medical evidence and an intrusive interview panel, and finally allows all trans people to have their gender legally recognised through a simple administrative process. That’s what we’ll be calling for during this consultation, and I’m looking forward to seeing the law change soon after.’
Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall said: ‘We’re pleased the Government recognises there is still more to be done to ensure all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are accepted without exception, and welcome the announcement of new measures to tackle some of the remaining inequalities.
‘We need a simple process which isn’t medicalised, intrusive or demeaning. We would urge the Government to ensure that all trans communities are consulted and to act quickly on their concerns.’
Ben Wilson, Equality and Human Rights Commission executive director, said: ‘There’s still so much more to do to ensure trans people can live as they choose without fear of discrimination or hostility.
‘We welcome that the Government is prioritising this and seeking views from trans people themselves.
‘We’ll feed in information about a wide range of issues raised with us from school and work to other areas of life.’
The consultation will also address whether those whose gender is ‘non-binary’ should be able to define themselves as ‘X’ on their birth certificates.
A separate consultation in Scotland goes even further and proposes a cut in the age at which people can change their gender from 18 to 16.
The Government has also announced the deferral blood donation period for men who have sexual contact with other men, will be reduced from 12 months to three months increasing the supply of donor blood available for life-saving operations.
Fears over infections led to a ban on gay men giving blood at the height of the Aids epidemic, but in 2011 that was changed to allow men to donate blood a year after having sex.
This will be reduced again in 2018 due to medical advances under plans for the NHS in England.
Ethan Spibey, Founder, FreedomToDonate said: ‘Today’s announcement from the Government marks a world-leading blood donation policy for gay and bisexual men and the other groups previously restricted.
‘I’m so proud that the work of FreedomToDonate and our supporters will help ensure more people than ever before are allowed to safely donate blood. I began this campaign because I wanted to repay the donor who saved my granddad’s life after a major operation and this announcement means I’m closer than ever to doing that.’