Work is set to get under way on an Irish law to allow transsexuals to change their sex on their birth certificate.
The news comes despite warnings from critics that measures to change sex physically would not help resolve psychological turmoil.
The Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Hanafin said she would “progress this matter in the immediate future”.
She added: “The means by which legal recognition will be affected may include legislation and, in any event, will require careful consideration and consultation.”
Cat McIlroy of Transgender Equality Network Ireland, an activist group, said: “There are under 100 people accessing hormones in the Loughlinstown clinic, but many more people identify as cross-dressers or transvestites and their family or work experiences can dictate if they go further.
“We believe there are potentially hundreds of people who could benefit from new laws in the area.”
The Green Party in Ireland pushed for the change but the Fianna Fáil Party has expressed concern that people would seek to change their sex for reasons other than psychological or medical, such as welfare or other entitlements.
In the UK, the Gender Recognition Act was passed in 2004.
It allows a biologically normal man to become a woman in law and vice versa. This means a man can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate and then obtain a new birth certificate stating he was born a woman.
Under the Act a man can become a woman “for all purposes” in law. He could then legally marry another man, because in law the couple would be of opposite sexes.
Critics point to evidence of transsexuals who later change their minds.
According to a Home Office report on transsexualism: “Many people revert to their biological sex after living for some time in the opposite sex”.
Doctors from the NHS Portman Clinic, an internationally acclaimed centre for ‘sex change’ treatment, have stated, “what many patients find is that they are left with a mutilated body, but the internal conflicts remain”.