Trans prejudice doubles in three years in wake of JK Rowling cancel culture row

JK Rowling, Kathleen Stock, Nicola Sturgeon
JK Rowling, Kathleen Stock, Nicola Sturgeon

Prejudice towards trans people has doubled in three years in the wake of the JK Rowling cancel culture row, a survey has revealed.

One in three people describe themselves as prejudiced towards trans people - double the number of people in 2019, according to the British Social Attitudes (BSA) report published on Thursday.

National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) has been conducting the annual survey of what people in Britain think about a wide range of social and political issues since 1983.

NatCen said that while social attitudes have become increasingly liberal, people’s self-declared views about trans people are an outlier.

Britons were asked if they were either “very prejudiced”, “a little prejudiced” or “not prejudiced” towards transgender people.

Twenty seven per cent of people surveyed in 2022 identified as “a little prejudiced” - a record high and almost double the result of 14 per cent in 2019.

Those that described themselves as “very prejudiced” also increased from two per cent in 2019 to six per cent in 2022. In contrast the number of people describing themselves as “not prejudiced at all” towards trans people dropped dramatically from 82 per cent in 2019 to 64 per cent in 2022.

The NatCen researchers have urged the Government to adopt more liberal policies to counteract the divided public opinion, saying: “Whilst homosexual relationships are now widely accepted and supported legislatively, with little apparent reason for this support to decline, we might conclude that policy-makers need to take on board the current divided state of attitudes towards people who are transgender, when developing future policy on this issue, if they wish for it, and public attitudes, to ultimately move in a more liberal direction.”

The shift in attitudes came after JK Rowling first voiced support for Maya Forstater in 2019 who lost her job after tweeting that transgender women could not change their biological sex.

In 2020, the Harry Potter author shared an article online which included the term “people who menstruate”, omitting the word “women”.

She said: “People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, is under mounting pressure to publish the repeatedly delayed trans guidance for schools.

‘Delayed by a Cabinet disagreement’

It was promised before the end of the summer term but has been delayed by a Cabinet disagreement over whether a law change is needed to ban children from changing their gender pronouns at school.

It follows recent debates over accommodating trans people in sports, schools and prisons.

Earlier this year, Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, announced rules barring some transgender women from female prison.

The issue was reignited in Scotland after trans woman Isla Bryson, 31, was convicted of raping two women before transitioning and was held in an all-female facility to await sentencing. After an outcry she was moved to a male site and a review was commissioned by the Scottish justice secretary.

‌In March, UK Athletics banned transgender women from competing in female categories and in July, World Aquatics, the international governing body for swimming, announced it will start an open category including all transgender athletes.

Responding to the report, Rachel Dee, president of the Beaumont Society, a charity that supports trans people, said: “Whilst I agree with some of the findings of the report, that there is more public awareness now of trans issues, both hostile via right wing Government and some media, and more supportive role by some governments in the UK.

‘Not a life choice, transphobia is’

“For those of us who identify as trans and I should say here that it is not a life choice, transphobia is.

“I have no idea who they asked in the survey but in my experience, I feel that the trans community is at about the same point that the gay community was at in the 1980s.

“I can honestly say that I have never experienced a negative comment or otherwise whilst being out in the big wide world.”

Britons were also asked about their views on whether transgender people should be able to have the sex on their birth certificate changed.

Some 30 per cent agreed, down from 58 per cent, when the question was first asked in 2016. The proportion who were indifferent rose from 18 per cent to 29 per cent, whilst those who disagreed with the statement had risen from 22 per cent to 39 per cent.

Data also showed that those most likely to be sceptical of transgender issues, as well as issues surrounding abortion and same sex marriage, were more likely to be men over-70 and with no education qualifications.

NatCen researchers noted how the “liberal” position on transgender issues has “reduced substantially” since 2016, with most of this reduction occurring between 2019 and 2022.

“These changes in attitudes are substantial,” the researchers said, adding that their directions and timing is likely to have been largely triggered by intense political debate and increasing scrutiny “on both sides of the border” regarding “the easing of the circumstances in which someone can be diagnosed as transgender”.

The debate on transgender issues is also likely to have “increased public ambivalence or uncertainty around this issue, as people have been exposed to the complexities involved in the journeys of people who are transgender”, it added.

The findings are a stark indicator that there has been an overall gradual erosion in support towards transgender rights since 2018, which reflects the findings of ongoing data collection by YouGov.