by Debbie Hayton
Thursday, 16
June 2022
Explainer
18:09

Trans polling doesn’t tell the whole story

New research about trans equality is misleading
by Debbie Hayton
Credit: Getty

A new survey has found that 46% of Britons think that a transwoman is a woman, but only 19% think that transwomen should be allowed to compete in women’s sports. How does that work? Are we women or not, or does it depend?

The data comes from a survey of 5000 people from across England, Scotland and Wales. The data is certainly interesting — nearly half of young people know a transgender person and well over half thought that transgender issues should be taught in schools. But percentages tell us only part of the story. Why do people think that transwomen are women? Unless — it seems — where women’s sports are involved.

One possible inference is that the British public wants to be kind to transgender people, but they are less keen to yield to every demand from the transgender community. That’s fair enough. Other people also have rights, which is why we should have single-sex spaces, for example.

In another part of the survey, only 24% thought that transwomen should be welcomed into the women’s changing rooms. But that percentage doubled when it was specified that the transwomen had undergone gender reassignment surgery. It seems that inclusion depends on bodies as well as identities.

So when a survey like this hits the press we need to be very careful when interpreting the results. The Guardian suggested that ‘Britons [are] not bitterly polarised over trans equality.’ That makes sense. Away from the maelstrom of Twitter, most people probably don’t think about transgender issues very much, and why should they? I’m trans and transgender politics doesn’t fill up my days either. My concerns are pretty much the same as everyone else’s: juggling deadlines at work and trying to work out how to pay the bills.

But get people into a focus group and ask them questions, the conflict of rights cannot be ignored. Sports and changing rooms crystallised the issue for many. Transgender people enjoy widespread rights and acceptance in liberal societies like the UK, and we have the same opportunities as everyone else. But transwomen are not women — we are the other sex — and we cannot expect to be treated in exactly the same way as women.

We also need to clarify what “transgender” actually means. The survey suggested that many people considered gender reassignment surgery to be important, at least in some contexts. But the prevalence of transgender people is apparently skewed towards the young, a group that has historically been prone to break social gender norms and identify with fads and fashions.

Are we talking about transsexuals — a group that makes significant changes to their bodies — or a much wider group that includes transvestites and gender non-conforming people? The survey doesn’t say, and as such its findings are rather limited.

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Orson Carte
Orson Carte
5 months ago

I think a lot of us are tolerant of people who aren’t necessarily ‘like us’; we accept differences within society. I guess the problem arises when our tolerance is abused. An intact male is an intact male, whatever he ‘identifies’ as. Someone who has taken the massive step of having surgery on their body is clearly serious about their intentions and deserving of our acceptance but a chap who retains their full male genitalia and can still get an erection is a whole different matter, whether he is wearing a frock or not.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
5 months ago

The definition of transgender in question can make a big difference. There seems to be a phenomenon of people calling themselves ‘gender non-binary’ or ‘gender-fluid’ so that they can call themselves ‘trans’ and join the cool kids club, without having to actually make changes to their lives in any way. It’s a ‘cheap’ way to be trendy and make demands of others for special treatment by scooting up the progressive stack.

Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
5 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

And a way to escape the white oppressor box

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
5 months ago

“A new survey has found that 46% of Britons think that a transwoman is a woman”

Well, a new survey found that when pestered by a random nuisance caller 46% of the British people unfortunate enough to have their peace so disturbed thought the right answer to give to said nuisance caller was that they believed a “transwoman” to be a woman. How many of those 46% would say to their closest family and friends that they genuinely and wholeheartedly believe that a man in a dress who says he is a woman is literally identical to an actual woman? Not many, I suspect. How many of the 46% – and indeed the other 54% – would say that it’s wrong to discriminate against or victimise a man in a dress who believes himself to be a woman? No doubt the vast majority.

So enough with this assault on reality. Enough with this misogyny. It harms everyone, including “transwomen”. Let’s just let people be who they want to be, don’t judge other people by their appearances, be kind, be tolerant, be open-minded, be willing to change your mind but be true to your principles; but for goodness sake please just let’s just all stop it with the endless identity politics, and the bullying and the othering that accompanies it. Live and let live.

Jonathan Smith
Jonathan Smith
5 months ago

“A new survey has found that 46% of Britons think that a transwoman is a woman”

This is Guardian World remember. The number doesn’t actually make it so.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jonathan Smith
Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
5 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Smith

Good point. I was staggered by that figure and wondered what the exact wording was of the question.

R Wright
R Wright
5 months ago

Kids will follow any fads that guarantees them power over their peers. At least 99.9% of them will never follow through and chemically castrate themselves, Turing style.

Michael Prendergast
Michael Prendergast
5 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Turing didn’t chose to do so voluntarily, it was that or jail.

Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
5 months ago

Might be wise to start publicizing the goals of the transgender movement. It first aims to redefine whatever is “queer” as the norm making everyone who is not thus inclined, abnormal, perhaps in need of therapy or drugs. The long term goal is transhumanism. If you think this hysterical, you can read about their goals, of which they are proud and see themselves as enlightened, here: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/billionaire-family-pushing-synthetic-sex-identities-ssi-pritzkers
and here:
https://www.the11thhourblog.com/

Margaret TC
Margaret TC
5 months ago
Reply to  Lillian Fry

Thanks very much Lillian, the first of these was a real eye opener.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
5 months ago
Reply to  Lillian Fry

Rather amazing and strange notions in these references seemingly to normalize gender dysphoria. We humans are quite able to imagine whatever we wish to explain or rationalize anything. And biology can often result in some odd, rare conditions. If a male imagines themselves as female, they have fixated what a being a female might be. So we see men in dresses modelling what they imagine a woman might feel or be; most likely what society has defined as the appearance of being female. Still they can’t possibly ever be a woman. Not sure all of this attention is getting much done to improve life in general.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
5 months ago

Excellent article. I have often wondered what extra rights transgender people need other than the rights we all have under the law. If they want the right to be treated in every way as indistinguishable from their target gender that needs thorough investigation and research in order to make sure that it doesn’t disadvantage other vulnerable groups.