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How do British people feel about transphobia and transgender issues?

Posted on 20 March 2018 by Guy Goodwin, Chief Executive .

Most British people today are accepting of same-sex relationships. In the latest British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey, 64% of respondents said they are “not wrong at all”, compared with 10-20% in the 1980s.

While Britons may be more accepting of the “LGB” in LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender), it has been less clear how they perceive the “T”.

A parliamentary inquiry into transgender equality, published in 2016, reported widespread societal transphobia. It also noted the lack of good quality data regarding trans people in the UK (“650,000 people are 'likely to be gender incongruent to some degree'”).

Transgender rights have noticeably become a more visible topic of debate in the media, for example recently around safe spaces for women.

So what do the public really think? Well, the latest BSA, for the first time, gives us an indication by reporting on a new set of questions.

Over 8 in 10 of Britons described ourselves as “not prejudiced at all” against transgender people, while 15% said they are a little prejudiced and 2% said they are very prejudiced.

What people say and do may be different, of course, especially when we have unconscious biases. As researchers, we can test this further.

Transphobia Graphic

If you ask whether prejudice against people who are transgender is always wrong, the figure agreeing drops to 53% with a further 19% saying that prejudice is “mostly wrong”.

But how many Britons are completely accepting of transgender people in public-facing jobs? About 4 in 10 say that qualified transgender people “definitely should” be employed as a police officer or as a primary school teacher.    

The survey also shows that a majority of Britons are comfortable with a transgender person using a single-sex public toilet according to their gender identity (although women (72%) tend to be more comfortable with this than men (64%)).

In summary, these findings suggest the majority of Britons have supportive attitudes towards transgender people. When probed deeper, some of that support becomes more qualified as you explore practical examples.

The most positive attitudes towards trans people tend to be observed among the young, those with the highest education qualifications and those without a religion.

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