Where does the British public really stand on transgender rights and women-only services?
We’ve looked at all the published survey results on this topic from the past three years, and we have found some consistent trends.
Can some born male become a woman?
The more explicit the question, the more biology seems to matter, but there is never a majority who believe that people can change sex.
YouGov 2018 & YouGov 2020: A transgender woman is someone who was biologically male at birth, but now identifies as a woman. Do you agree or disagree with the following statements? A transgender woman is a woman
Populus 2018: We would now like you to think about a person who was born male and has male genitalia but who identifies as a woman. In your own personal view would you consider this person to be a woman or a man?
Panelbase July 2020; Q46: Which of these is closest to what you believe a woman to mean?
Reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004
In every single survey there is a clear majority in favour of retaining medical gate-keeping for changing legal documents. There’s almost no public support for sex self-ID.
Populus 2018: Do you think that those who wish to legally change their gender on official documentation (e.g. birth certificate, passport) should or should not have to obtain a letter from a doctor as part of the requirement(s)?
There is never a majority in favour of letting males who identify as women access women’s changing rooms. Support crashes when it’s mentioned that they may well have male genitalia. This shows that support for inclusion is often based on the widespread false assumption that such people have had surgery to remove their male genitalia. The reality is that most transgender women retain their penis.
YouGov 2018 & YouGov 2020: A transgender woman is someone who was biologically male at birth, but now identifies as a woman. Do you think transgender women should or should not be allowed to use women’s changing rooms?
Populus 2018: Do you think someone who identifies as a woman but was born male and still has male genitalia should or should not be free to use female changing rooms where women and girls are undressing/showering?
Panelbase July 2020 Q48: Do you think someone who identifies as a woman but was born male and still has male genitalia should or should not be free to use female changing rooms where women and girls are undressing/showering, even if those women object?
YouGov2020*: Do you think a transgender woman who has not had gender reassignment surgery should or should not be allowed to use women’s changing rooms?
People need no reminder that biology, not genitals, matter in sport. Only around 1 in 5 accept transwomen in female sport. Most do not. Whether transwomen have had gender reassignment surgery or not makes little difference.
YouGov 2018 & YouGov 2020: A transgender woman is someone who was biologically male at birth, but now identifies as a woman. Do you think transgender women should or should not be allowed to take part in women’s sporting events?
Populus 2018: Still thinking about a person who was born male and has male genitalia but who identifies as woman. Do you think someone who identifies as a woman but was born male should or should not be allowed to compete in female-only sporting events?
Panelbase 2019 GB residents: The former tennis player Martina Navratilova recently expressed the view that “trans women” – biologically-male people who identify as female – should not be allowed to compete against women in women’s sports such as tennis because their male physiology gives them an unfair advantage in sports where size/musculature/strength are factors.
One in four “don’t know”
Ask people a sensitive question, like their household income, and generally only around 6% won’t answer. But ask a question about transgender people and a quarter “don’t know”. Given that pro-trans campaigning has promoted the idea that only trans people can comment on policies that impact trans lives, it’s possible that people felt unqualified to comment, or unwilling to risk appearing “transphobic”. Whatever the reason, many people will not, or feel they cannot, answer these questions. More information and open debate is needed.
What does this mean for policy makers?
Ideological debate over whether transwomen are women is not a useful starting point for making policy. A general tolerance for people’s right to self-express is welcome. It cannot be extrapolated into specific policy areas. As these surveys show, agreeing that a person born male can self-identify as a woman does not mean agreeing that that person should have access to female-only spaces.
The high level of “don’t know”s across all the questions and all the surveys should make trans pressure groups stop and think. The policy of No Debate is not creating public support, it’s creating confusion.
There is very little support for males who have not undergone genital reassignment surgery being allowed to use women’s facilities. Some of the support is likely to be based on the misapprehension that transgender people will have all had a ‘sex change operation’. People’s answers are quite different when prompted to think about transwomen who retain their penis.
There is no support for current sport policies of trans inclusion. Many of those policies require testosterone suppression, but, as these surveys show, even if people assume that transwomen have had full gender reassignment surgery, few think it’s ok.