Overwhelming majority of Brits think transphobia is wrong, says study – but fewer are ready to put their money where their mouths are
The overwhelming majority of people in Britain believe prejudice against trans people is wrong and don’t consider themselves to be transphobic – but falling numbers are willing to support trans people’s right to access single-sex spaces.
According to figures from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), obtained from the 2019 British Social Attitudes survey (BSA), 76 per cent of people in the UK believe prejudice against transgender people is always or mostly wrong.
Over 80 per cent of the also believed they were not personally prejudiced against transgender people.
But the transphobic rhetoric that has dominated much of the coverage of trans issues in the press and online seems to be having an impact on attitudes towards trans people in Britain.
On the topic of access by trans people to single-sex spaces that match their gender, prejudice has increased compared to 2016.
Within three years, the percentage of women who said they were comfortable with a trans woman using a women's public toilet dropped from 72 per cent to 66 per cent.
The proportion of men who said they would be comfortable with a trans man using men’s public toilets also dropped from 64 per cent to 58 per cent.
The biggest drop, 10 percentage points, was seen in the proportion of people who felt comfortable with trans women using domestic violence refuges – 61 per cent in 2016 and 51 per cent in 2019.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the EHRC, 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."
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She continued: "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."
The BSA survey interviewed 3,224 adults face-to-face, with 2,636 answering additional questions in a self-completion format.