The new research published Thursday, which is thought to be the most detailed UK study of public attitudes towards trans people to date, surveyed more than 5,000 people to ascertain opinion on what is often portrayed as a deeply divisive and contentious subject.
More in Common, an international research organisation, found that nearly half of those polled (46 per cent) agreed with the statement that “a trans man is a man and a trans woman is a woman”, compared with 32 per cent who disagreed and 22 per cent who said they didn’t know, with agreement highest among younger generations.
Lower agreement was found to be “driven by unfamiliarity rather than opposition”.
Almost two-thirds felt that schools should talk to students about trans issues, with 30 per cent stating this should happen at primary school and 33 per cent during secondary school.
In comparison, 37 per cent said it was appropriate to tell primary school children that some people are gay.
Two fifths (41 per cent) felt schools should have a specific policy to tackle transphobia, while almost all believed schools should have a general bullying policy.
Despite contested reports that schools, charities or campaigners are allegedly “pushing children to transition”, the report stated that “there was no sense among any of the people we spoke to” that this was the case.
In a list of 16 of the top issues facing the country today, “the debate about transgender people” came last, with just two per cent stating it was a significant concern.
Of all the issues listed, it was also the one people felt was “in the news too much”.
On the flipside, the issue of trans people’s participation in sports aroused the strongest response, with only 19 per cent of those polled agreeing that “trans women should be able to participate in women-only sporting events”, compared with 57 per cent who oppose such inclusion.
A majority of those polled also believe that physical medical interventions towards transition should not start below the age of 18, although half said they were comfortable with the idea that someone should be able to take hormone blockers under the age of 18.
On the issue of single sex spaces, almost half (48 per cent) felt that trans women who have undergone gender reassignment surgery should be able to use women’s changing rooms, while 24 per cent said they didn’t know.
The study authors noted that there was “a strong sense of acceptance and compassion” from respondents on trans equality, with “live and let live” a common sentiment.
This lack of apparent animosity aligns with the findings from the 2019 British Social Attitudes survey, which found 82 per cent of Britons said they had no prejudice towards transgender people, compared to just 16 per cent who said they did.
Luke Tryl, UK director of More in Common, said: “From the toxic debate playing out across social media you’d assume the country is split into trans activists and transphobes, those who want to protect women’s rights, and those working to undermine them.
“But when you actually speak to ordinary people in communities across the country you realise that nothing could be further from the truth.
“Instead, most Britons take a nuanced, compassionate approach, that is rooted in society doing what it can to make trans people feel accepted and comfortable – including calling them by their preferred pronouns and tackling discrimination – but which also balances inclusion with fairness, particularly on the issue of women’s sport.
“Those involved in the debate about trans equality, both activists and commentators, would do well to take the time to listen to the views of ordinary Britons - their common ground, common sense starting points provide the opportunity to douse the flames of this divisive debate and make meaningful progress that makes trans people’s lives better.”