We see a lot of misinformation and ‘debate’ about trans people. But actually when it comes to the data, it is clear. The majority of people, and specifically women, support trans rights.
As Stonewall’s new Chief Executive, and one with a penchant for data, I want to show you how the numbers – which show that most people, particularly women, are supportive of trans people - do not add up to the narrative we see in the media.
I will be using data from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey, which is the highest quality available data on the general public’s views of LGBT+ people and relationships (full disclosure: I helped write and edit the report I’m referencing in a previous role).
The first thing to note from the BSA data is that the public do not like to see themselves as being transphobic – 83% say they are “not prejudiced at all” towards transgender people, compared with just 15% who describe themselves as “very” or “a little” prejudiced’’.
What does this tell us? Well – it tells us people don’t think being prejudiced against trans people is a desirable characteristic, and that proud transphobes are a minority group.
About half of us (49%) think prejudice against trans people is “always” wrong, compared with just 6% who feel it is “rarely” or “never” wrong. A third (34%) have more mixed feelings and say prejudice against trans people is only “mostly” or “sometimes” wrong.
So, the majority of us don’t want to be seen as transphobic, but when it comes to prejudice against trans people in our society we are less clear that it is always a bad thing.
A good example of how this plays out in practice can be seen in some older BSA data, where despite an overwhelming majority describing themselves as ‘not at all prejudiced’, just four in ten supported the idea that a suitably qualified trans person “definitely should” be employed as a police officer or primary school teacher (43% and 41% respectively).
And this isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, what we can see happening for trans people now is very similar to how many people would have seen lesbians like me a few years back: we don’t hate you, but we don’t really want you teaching our children.
And while I’m using ‘us’ and ‘we’ here a lot here to talk about the British people, there are some really important differences in how people respond to these questions based on other things about them.
In line with other public attitudes (to lesbian and gay relationships, to abortion, to sex outside of marriage), some groups have more socially liberal views about trans people. Who are they? Well, younger people, non-religious people and people with higher level educational qualifications are all more likely to have positive views of trans people.
Oh, and women. Yes, women are more likely to have positive views of trans people. This is neatly illustrated in the earlier data, where 72% of women said that they were “very” or “quite comfortable” sharing a toilet with a trans woman, compared to 64% of men who were “very” or “quite comfortable” sharing toilets with trans men.
Let’s just sit with that one for a minute shall we? The current narrative of ‘women feel threatened by trans rights’ that is the cornerstone of anti-trans rights campaigns, simply doesn’t stack up with the evidence we have.
So, this is the bigger picture, backed up by solid data, that we are having these hard, heated and often deeply toxic conversations within. I also want to send my love to trans folk living in the UK right now who are seeing their existence and identity picked apart and debated across the national media.
It won’t take away the hurt, but I want trans people to know that the real picture is very different to what we are led to believe. The British public don’t like transphobia (even though sometimes members of the public can be transphobic), and half (49%) of the public feel that prejudice against transgender people is always wrong.
Despite the media narratives, misinformation and toxic debate which is making daily life harder and more gruelling for trans people – this evidence does shows that we are making progress. We can’t have equality unless it is equality for everyone, and we need trans allies to show up for our trans siblings now.
If you are in support of trans rights, please be loud and proud about it. While the Government has confirmed they won’t be rolling back trans rights, they will be announcing their plans for legal recognition for trans people over the ‘summer’.
So, it’s really important that MPs understand why supporting trans equality is important. You can help build support by contacting your MP this summer and asking them for a meeting to talk about trans equality.
Please call your MP’s office and ask for a meeting this summer. This webpage gives you advice and tips on how to get in touch. Together we keep up the pressure on the Government to support trans equality.