Trans Rights and Public Opinion

Polling organisation YouGov has just published the results of a survey conducted between the 16th and 17th December, concerning the public’s opinions on transgender people and trans rights.

Some of the results are unsurprising. Labour voters, Lib Dems, Remainers and young people tend to support trans rights; Conservatives, Leavers and older people tend to oppose them. On the initial question – whether trans women are women, and trans men are men – most demographic groups polled agree, with only Conservatives, Leavers and the over-65s disagreeing, and even those only by a relatively small margin.

The public in general supports trans women being allowed to use women’s changing rooms, toilets, shelters, and believe that them doing so does not present any risk. (Trans men using their respective facilities has slightly higher levels of support). Further to this, majorities are in favour of trans people being assigned to prisons based on their legal gender.

But the more interesting results are to be found in the breakdowns based on social class and gender. Is support for trans rights solely the domain of middle-class urbanites? The data suggests not.

On each of these issues, ABC1s (broadly middle-class people) are more supportive than C2DEs (broadly working class). But in each case, the difference is rarely more than a few percentage points. By way of example, 57% of working-class people and 60% of 50 to 64-year olds – not to mention 37% of Conservative voters – believe that trans women should be allowed to use women’s toilets. It would be something of a reach to dismiss these people as well-off, ‘leftie’ millennials.

However, the most significant takeaway from this survey concerns the difference in results for men and women. Anti-trans groups like to claim that support for trans people, and trans women in particular, is mainly to be found among misogynist men who ‘talk over women’ and are in favour of ‘the erasure of women as an identity’. Often this is ‘proven’ by self-selecting men’s tweets and, ironically, ignoring the views of women. But this survey shows that in fact the reverse is true.

On almost every question asked – the only exceptions being those related to making the gender recognition process easier – women consistently come out as being more in favour of trans rights, often significantly so. Most importantly, women are much more supportive of their trans sisters being allowed to use spaces allocated to their gender, with a majority of all women – i.e. even including those without an opinion either way – believing in their rights to use women’s toilets and women’s rape refuges.

In many ways this is not surprising – women generally tend to be more left-wing and more socially liberal in most surveys. Another YouGov survey conducted last year shows that women are more likely to be in favour of children being taught “that transgenderism (ew) is okay” in sex ed classes, with a similar increase when the same question was asked with regard to homosexuality. Polling by the same company also indicates that female students strongly believe that transphobes should not be allowed to speak at their university, with an incredible difference of 53 percentage points in the margin compared to men.

Similarly, an Ipsos MORI survey on attitudes to the LGBT community conducted in July showed that women are (or claim to be) more likely to: support equal marriage, know openly LGBT people in real life, be supportive of an LGBT child, and feel comfortable around gay men, lesbians, bisexual people and trans people (in every individual category).

Minorities should not be subjected to the court of public opinion, even in cases in which the public happen to be supportive: rights are inalienable. To believe the opposite would be to imply that every shift in attitudes should be accompanied by regressive legislation, and cause harm to the most vulnerable.

But these results are important because anti-trans campaigners have latched onto the narrative that the bulk of women are opposed to the changes and are having trans rights forced upon them. But while many men want to prevent trans women being able to access spaces which they themselves have no right to use or to govern the use of – perhaps mistakenly believing themselves to be ‘protecting’ women – these results couldn’t be clearer. Most women don’t believe they need protecting, and are happy to share space and resources with other women: both cis and trans.