Transgender rights and a generational divide

by Hannah Shrimpton
Diverse Britain

While the pandemic has brought us together in many ways, one area that has become increasingly polarised is gender recognition and transgender rights. This year, an already heated debate has led to multiple resignations, a change in direction of government policy1 and the departing Chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to beg opposing sides to concentrate on what they have in common.2

Our polling shows both conflict and uncertainty. Although the majority of Britons (70%) agree that transgender people are subject to discrimination, just a third feel that transgender rights should go any further. One in five think transgender rights have gone too far in Britain (19%), and another one in five say they have gone as far as they should (21%).

One in five think transgender rights have ‘gone too far’

Broadly, people feel
comfortable with
transgender people
in different settings

Thinking about how you
would personally feel in
the following situations,
how comfortable or
uncomfortable, if at all,
do you think you would
feel…

Source
Ipsos MORI

Base
1,078 Online British adults aged 18-75, 26-29 June 2020

People celebrating at the London Gay Pride parade

Additionally, while half of Britons say they would be comfortable if a close friend or relative was transgender (56%), if their GP was transgender (51%), and if a future Prime Minister was transgender (47%), there remains around one in five who say they would be uncomfortable (18%, 22% and 21% respectively).

Support for
transgender people
using facilities that
match their gender
identity

How strongly do you support or oppose the rights of transgender people to use the single-sex facilities that match their gender identity e.g. public toilets, changing rooms?

Source
Ipsos MORI

Base
1,078 Online British adults aged 18-75, Baby Boomers (324), Generation X (304), Millennials (299), Gen Z (151), 26-29 June 2020

Did you
know?

%

of Britons believe that transgender people face discrimination

However, divisions on this issue are particularly apparent by political orientation, gender identity and age. Age in particular is a key differentiator, with younger people more likely to support transgender rights than older people. More than half of Gen Z (56%) say transgender rights have not gone far enough compared with 39% of Millennials, 33% of Gen X, and just 20% of Baby Boomers. In addition, half of Gen Z (51%) and Millennials (50%) support transgender people using public facilities that match their gender identity, compared with a third of Gen X (35%) and just a quarter of Baby Boomers (26%).3

This age divide suggests a generational shift is underway, with transgender rights and transgender people more a part of the everyday lives of young people. For example, younger people are far more likely to say they are familiar with people who use gender neutral terms (such as ‘they/them’ or ‘xe’). Seven in ten (69%) Gen Z have heard of, met or know someone who uses gender neural terms, compared with just a quarter of Baby Boomers (25%). Currently, Baby Boomers run the country and most institutions – but if these generational differences persist, as we have already seen on issues such as homosexuality, then we can expect further change in Britain yet to come.

Real and perceived risk to health altered voting behaviour

Younger people are far more likely to say they are familiar with people who use gender neutral terms

Hannah Shrimpton

Hannah Shrimpton

Associate Director