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New research reveals positive attitudes towards transgender people

Equality and Human Rights Commission

4 min read Partner content

A majority of the public view transphobia as wrong and believe they are not personally prejudiced towards transgender people, according to the latest figures from a survey commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Research conducted as part of NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey on behalf of the EHRC shows that 76% of people surveyed believed prejudice against transgender people was always or mostly wrong. Over 80% of people also believed they were not prejudiced against transgender people.

However, the research also demonstrates a more nuanced debate when it comes to specific circumstances such as women’s refuges and the use of public toilets.

The survey revealed:

  • 51% of respondents said they would be comfortable or very comfortable with trans women accessing a women’s refuge; with 24% feeling very comfortable and 22% neither agreeing or disagreeing. The percentage who were comfortable or very comfortable had dropped by 10 percentage points from the previous survey in 2016.
  • The proportion of respondents who said they were not personally prejudiced against transgender people has remained at similar levels, between 82% and 84% since 2016.
  • The proportion of women who reported themselves to be comfortable with a transgender woman using women’s public toilet decreased from 72% to 66%.
  • There is widespread acceptance of transgender people in roles such as police officers and primary school teachers (84% and 75% of respondents respectively).

Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“Trans people deserve the same dignity and respect as anyone else. They must be able to participate fully in our communities without fear or prejudice.

“Although it is clear that we are progressing towards being a more inclusive and understanding society, these findings show that when probed, people were found to be less supportive of trans people in specific situations.

“Strong views and differences in opinion are signs of a healthy democracy. This research suggests that we need to improve the level of understanding on the key facts surrounding the debate.

“The vast majority of British people believe transphobia is wrong.  We need to understand some of the shifts, though, such as the slight reduction in support for access by trans people to some services. The best way forward is by both sides improving the level of discourse.

“We need clear conversations and proper debate about what the law and policy actually mean in practice, and what would be the practical effect of any changes – dialogue must be constructive, tolerant and based on the facts.

“This includes challenging prejudices, calling out abusive behaviour and being open about the rights and needs of everyone involved.  The Government ought to take the lead on building constructive and pragmatic discussions on issues affecting trans people.”

Guy Goodwin, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Social Research, said:

“These findings suggest the majority of Britons have supportive attitudes towards transgender people. Some of that support becomes more qualified though as you explore practical examples.

“While the public tend to approve of trans people being employed in roles which rely on public trust such as police officers or primary school teachers, views vary on the use of spaces, such as toilets, used exclusively by men or women.”

The EHRC has previously called on the Government to remove unnecessary barriers for trans people in obtaining legal recognition of their gender identity in Great Britain such as the removal of the requirement to provide evidence showing the applicant has lived in their acquired gender for at least two years and a reduction in the fee to do this.

The EHRC has also called for changes in the requirement for spousal consent on the continuation of the legal relationship when a trans person is seeking a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) in England and Wales.

The findings of the report come from the British Social Attitudes survey (BSA) in 2019. Carried out by the National Centre for Social Research annually since 1983, the BSA is an authoritative source of data on the views of the British public.


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