New study finds decline in UK trans acceptance: ‘A shift that benefits no one’

A picture of two trans flags waving in an open area.

A study has revealed that Britain’s attitudes towards trans people have become less tolerant, an outcome LGBTQ+ campaigners have blamed on a “manufactured moral panic”.

Findings from 40 years of the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, which was published by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) on Thursday (21 September), revealed insights into cultural and moral views in the UK. 

Although the BSA was founded in 1983, questions regarding transgender people were first asked only seven years ago.

The BSA 2022 survey consisted of 6,638 interviews, conducted between 7 September and 30 October, and results showed a sharp rise in prejudice against trans people, with only 64 per cent saying they’re “not at all prejudice”, falling from 82 per cent since 2019. 

Also according to the data, on average, almost four in every 10 people disagreed that trans people should have the right to change the sex recorded at birth on their birth certificate, if desired. Only three in every 10 people felt transgender men and women should be allowed to do so – a fall of 23 percentage points since 2019. Three in 10 also neither agree or disagree.

Elsewhere, the research brought better news: the British public has definitely become more liberal in its attitudes towards non-traditional family forms, sexual relationships and abortion. 

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Forty years ago, only 17 per cent of people felt same-sex relationships were “not wrong at all”, while 67 per cent feel that way now. Over the same period, those who believed that same-sex relations were “always wrong” has fallen from 50 per cent to just nine per cent. 

Meanwhile, there is almost universal support for abortion being allowed when the woman’s health is seriously endangered by the pregnancy – backed by of 95 per cent of those surveyed – while 89 per cent said they were who are in favour when there was a strong chance of the baby having a serious health condition.

‘Shift that benefits no one’

Gillian Prior, NatCen’s deputy chief executive, said of the findings: “In the case of transgender people, the recent public debate about the law on gender recognition has appeared to have resulted in attitudes becoming less liberal than they were just a few years ago.”

Stonewall were more blunt, saying the decline in trans acceptance were a “shift that benefits no one”. 

The LGBTQ+ charity blamed the results on the “inevitable human impact of a manufactured moral panic”, in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

“The only way society has moved on from previous moral panics is by political and societal leaders standing strong against hatred and misinformation. This is what we all need to do now to get the UK back on track.”

The data is the result of “the press-driven moral panic bearing fruit”, according to Nancy Kelley, Stonewall’s chief executive. 

“Shame on every institution and individual that has driven this and is profiting from it,” she said. 

The comments follow prime minister Rishi Sunak being condemned for mocking trans women in a video obtained by PinkNews. 

Findings from the survey also come as the Scottish government challenges the UK government’s use of Section 35 of the Scotland Act to block its gender recognition reform bill, which would allow trans people in Scotland to self-declare their gender.

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