I’m every woman (p<0.05)

You don’t have to traverse the highways of the Twitter [debate / argument / slanging match] (delete as applicable) for long before someone with a beard will tell you that most women support trans rights. They might further tell you that women are more supportive than men, undermining the argument that the people who claim to be speaking out for women’s rights are doing so on behalf of women. Just the other day somebody was claiming that those who oppose trans rights trampling all over women’s right were a small minority of bigots.

Sometimes, your new beardy friend will have some stats to back up these claims. Let’s have a look at some statistics.

Mel Gibson in What Women Want (2000, dir. Nancy ‘Russ’ Meyers )

The survey I’m using here is a year old, so well before the current argument about someone who almost everyone agrees is man was in the news for being, to take the minority views, either a woman or a rapist. The figures presented come from the Savanta poll on behalf of BBC Scotland, which was published in February 2022.

I’m using this survey because, for me, it’s pretty close to being the gold standard on how to poll on this issue. The terms are very clearly defined, the survey asks specific questions and then digs into the detail a little more. While it polled only in Scotland, the base size (2,038 respondents) is good, and enough to put the margin of error within ±2%.

Firstly, the headline figure, which was reported by Pink News at the time the survey was published.

The headline is absolutely correct. Asked, “Given this information on the previous pages, to what extent, if at all, would you support or oppose making the process to acquire a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) easier for transgender individuals,” 63% of women expressed support, with only 15% opposing (the remainder said they had no opinion or didn’t know). Further, with 34% of women saying that they strongly supported reform, while only 5% said they strongly opposed it, the case for it only being a small minority of women who complain about trans rights seems to be true.

However, I picked this survey because, as noted, it digs into the detail a bit deeper… and that’s where things become interesting. The plans of the Scottish Government at the time, since introduced in their Gender Recognition Reform Bill, to make it easier to obtain a GRC were based on three key changes:

  1. Removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria ( a measure commonly called ‘self ID’)
  2. Reduce the time applicants need to have lived in their acquired gender prior to being granted a GRC, from 2 years to 6 months.
  3. Reducing the minimum age an applicant can apply for a GRC from 18 to 16

The Savanta survey, bless it, asked about all three of these measures in follow-up questions. On the first point, self ID, only a plurality of women (46%) supported the measure, not a majority. Strong support had dropped to fewer than 1 in 5 (19%), while strong opposition had tripled to 15%.

What is truly surprising, given how much debate time is given over to the pitfalls of self ID, is that this was, with women, the most popular of the three reforms.

Reducing the period living as your acquired gender saw more women (42%) opposing than supporting (40%), with only 16% of women strongly supporting the change – only half of those who said they strongly supported reform overall. Reducing the age limit was even less popular, with 48% of female respondents opposing it, 28% of them saying they strongly opposed it (compared to 15% strongly supporting the change).

The Pink News headline, then, seems to have rather overstated the case. While a healthy majority of women did support reforming the gender recognition process, they gave majority support to none of the measures to do so, and for two of the three proposed measures opposition outweighed support.

Following questions asked about transwomen’s access to different areas of female life – toilets/changing rooms, amateur sports, elite sports, and domestic abuse services. The results are shown below, reordered to show from most supported to least.

Again, we only have one area where there is majority support, although more support than oppose everywhere but in elite sports. However, in 4 of the 5 areas we see 20% or more of the female population opposing trans inclusion. This is not a tiny minority that we’re talking about.

Toilets/changing rooms are presented differently in that graph because, while the rest of the questions were asked on a Strongly Support through to Strongly Oppose scale, respondents were only given a should/should not option on whether transwomen should use women’s toilets.

Fortunately, thanks to the fickle gods of questionnaire design, all respondents were asked a follow-up question about the circumstances under which transwomen should be allowed to access women’s toilets and changing rooms, with the options of three levels of transition – roughly, social, legal, and surgical – and a ‘Never’ option.

Only 17% of women said that transwomen should have access to these spaces if they haven’t legally or surgically changed their sex. A similar number, taking the total to a third of all women, were prepared to extend access to those who had legally changed their gender, but hadn’t had any surgery, and another third of women were prepared to let those who had surgically transitioned enter.

Looking just at the women who were prepared to allow transwomen into their toilets, the split between those who would do so without surgery and those who saw it as a prerequisite is almost perfectly 50/50 (354 respondents in favour of access without surgery vs 352 who said it should be a requirement).

What’s interesting (well, to me, at least) is that none of those numbers really align with the 45% figure for women who said that transwomen should be allowed to use such spaces in the earlier question. Making the question more detailed showed that, offered a more nuanced option than all or none, some women who said that transwomen should be allowed in made it clear this was only after surgical transition. We can only guess at how sports, prisons and domestic abuse services would have fared if they’d been asked about in the same level of detail.

What we undoubtedly see is that around 1 in 6 women strongly support trans rights. Figures within the margin of error of that number appear in the ‘Strongly support’ category throughout the survey. Without a breakdown by age within sex it’s impossible to be sure, but the correlation of strong support with the younger age group likely means that these are predominantly young women.

Other than that, women seem resistant to the idea of blanket allow/don’t allow rules in many areas of life, but the more detailed toilets/changing rooms question suggests that this is because they recognise a meaningful difference between those who have undergone a lengthy and difficult process to transition, and those who have simply socially transitioned. This would tie in well with them being less willing to support making the GRC process shorter.

That elite sport is the bridge too far, the point where those opposing trans inclusion shift to being the plurality opinion, is also telling, as this is also the point where even surgical intervention would not level the playing field (see what I did there?)

These two questions between them suggest that it’s a common view not everybody who says they’re a woman should be treated as one, and that there should be limits to the circumstances in which they are treated as such.

Of course, when you ask 1,110 women for their opinion you’re very unlikely to get a single, unified answer, but if there is one here I’d say it’s this…

You’re right, Mr Beard, more women support transwomen’s rights than oppose them.

They just, when you get into the details, don’t agree with you that transwoman are women.

2 thoughts on “I’m every woman (p<0.05)

    • It’s difficult to know. The survey identified 7 respondents (0.34%) as being trans, and those individuals were excluded from the male/female breakdowns.
      However, the questions prior to the first ‘proper’ question – i.e., the questions used to gather demographics – weren’t published in the data tables, so it’s impossible to determine how those 7 trans respondents were identified.
      The percentage is quite similar to the number I’d expect to choose ‘Other’ in a Male/Female/Other selection question, so I don’t know if the respondents who were identified as trans were actually trans, or were simply those who hadn’t selected Male or Female as their gender.


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