Trans people and society

How many trans people are there in the world?

Statistics about trans people vary widely, partly because different sources assume different working definitions of “transgender”. However, it is generally estimated that approximately 0.5% of the population are trans (World Population Review, 2023).

The 2021 Census in the United Kingdom reported that trans people make up 0.5% of the population of England and Wales (approximately 262,000 people). The proportions of trans men and trans women are roughly the same, while nonbinary people make up a slightly smaller proportion (Office for National Statistics, 2023).

What is the situation like for trans people at the moment?

Trans people suffer significant levels of prejudice, abuse, and injustice worldwide. As noted above, there is a lot of misinformation in the media about trans people, who are often depicted inaccurately in negative ways. In some countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, the rights of trans people have been attacked by politicians and the media as part of an ideological culture war (Hines, 2020; Kraschel et al. 2022; McLean, 2021).

In the United Kingdom, research in 2018 found that 40% of trans people had hate crimes committed against them that year, 40% of trans young people had attempted suicide, and 12.5% of trans people had been physically attacked by colleagues or customers at work (Stonewall, 2018). More recent research in 2020 found that 80% of trans people had experienced hate crimes that year. This shows a worrying increase in transphobic violence and abuse (Galop, 2020).

Trans people have also had their access to gender affirming healthcare restricted in several countries. As noted above, some of these restrictions have been ideologically motivated. For example, in the United States, the numerous bills aimed at restricting access to gender affirming healthcare reflect a wider trend of political and legal attempts to restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ people (Kraschel et al. 2022). In England, the restrictions to gender affirming healthcare have been situated in a context that includes political attacks on trans people and the rise of trans-exclusionary lobby groups, such as Fair Play for Women, LGB Alliance, and Transgender Trend (Hines 2020; McLean 2021). Lack of access to gender affirming healthcare has been shown to lead to poorer health outcomes in trans people, including increased rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidality (Tordoff et al., 2022).

Which public toilets can trans people use?

Having facilities that everyone can use, such as gender-neutral single-stall toilets and changing rooms with private spaces, makes things easier for lots of people. Many institutions have been taking this approach for a long time now, as it benefits families, people with disabilities, and many LGBTQ+ people.

When public toilets are gendered, trans people have the rights to use the toilets that match their identified genders. This means that trans men have the rights to use the men’s toilets and trans women have the rights to use the women’s toilets.

Trans people have been using the toilets that match their genders for decades without any issues. Unfortunately, there has recently a lot of misinformation and dishonesty in political discourse and the media about trans people and public toilets. This misinformation has no basis in evidence but instead is based on prejudice. There is no evidence that trans people pose any danger to cis people in public toilets (Hasenbush et al., 2019). Furthermore, research suggests that trans-exclusionary policies about public toilets are likely to result in increased risks of violence and harassment against trans people and cis people (Jones and Slater, 2020).

Should trans women be allowed in women’s refuges?

Refuges exist to support vulnerable women leaving unsafe situations. Research in the United Kingdom in 2018 found that 41% of trans people had experienced hate crimes that year and more than 25% of trans people in relationships have faced domestic abuse from partners. Trans women are subjected to many of the same sorts of gendered violence as cis women, and so deserve the same sorts of help and support. It is horrific to be the victim of violence and then be turned away from help when you desperately need it.

Many refuges already support trans women escaping abuse. We have to trust that the people running those services know what they’re doing, as they are the experts at supporting women in those services.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of funding and support for refuges, which means that many victims of domestic violence who desperately need help are being turned away. We also need more shelters for men and shelters that are specific to LGBTQ people.

Should trans women be able to sit on women-only panels or be on women-only shortlists?

Yes. Trans women are women and should have the same opportunities as other women. Trans women suffer the same sorts of sexism, misogyny, and injustice that other women do (Hay, 2020; Serano, 2007). The reason why there are women-only panels and women-only shortlists is to try to redress the injustices and barriers that women, including trans women, are made to suffer.

These women-only panels and women-only shortlists are stronger when they recognise and represent women from a wide range of backgrounds. This includes trans women, disabled women, and women of colour, who have very little visible representation in positions of power and who can bring different perspectives to the table.

Should trans people continue to be allowed to play sport?

Trans people are already playing sport and many governing organisations have rules to support trans people in sport. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation in the media about the fairness and safety of including trans people in gendered categories in sport. Again, much of this misinformation has no basis in evidence but is based on prejudice.

According to the latest research, there is no evidence that trans women have systematic advantages over cis women in sport (e-Alliance, 2023). Generalised average data about strength, body mass, and testosterone fail to account for the wide range of people of all genders who take part in different sports. Different sports involve different skills, many of which are not impacted by testosterone exposure. The data also ignore the influence of training on performance and safety.

When people focus on testosterone levels in sport, it also harms cis women and other people who do not conform to stereotypical patriarchal norms concerning what women’s bodies should be like. This sexism often intersects with other prejudices, such as racism, homophobia, and intersexphobia. We saw this at the 2020 Olympic Games, when track-and-field stars Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi were banned from competing because of their endogenous testosterone levels.

Sport at all levels helps people to come together, stay healthy, work in teams, and achieve amazing things. Nobody should be left behind or excluded because of their gender identity.

Are trans people and allies who refuse to go on panel shows to discuss gender silencing debate?

No. Trans people and allies are keen to have honest discussions about gender and trans equality. What they are not prepared to do is debate whether or not they deserve to exist in society and be treated as equals with basic rights.

A necessary condition for a free and fair debate is that the discussants must be respected as equals and trusted as authorities on their own experiences. However, if one side of the debate is assuming that the other side’s experience is not valid, then this condition is not being met and it is not a fair debate. A trans person should not be expected to go on a panel show to debate someone with trans-exclusionary views, just like how a person of colour should not be expected to go on a panel show to debate someone with racist views.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that the expression “free speech” has recently been misused to shield the speech of privileged groups from criticism while suppressing the speech of oppressed groups. We saw this on 28th June 2023, when there was a stabbing attack during a philosophy of gender class at the University of Waterloo in Canada. The attack was aimed at stopping people from having honest discussions about gender and LGBTQ+ issues.

How does trans equality relate to other forms of equality?

Like all people, trans people have intersectional identities. Transphobia intersects with other forms of oppression, such as sexism, homophobia, racism, ableism, and classism. This means that trans equality cannot be fully achieved without achieving equality for everyone.

The struggle for trans rights is based on the same ideals as other liberation movements, including movements for women’s rights, gay rights, racial equality, disability rights, and socioeconomic equality. These ideals include the right to bodily autonomy, the right to self-determination, the right to healthcare, the right to freedom of expression, the right to privacy, freedom from prejudice and discrimination, and freedom from interpersonal and state violence.

What can I do to be an ally to trans people?

It is good to see that more people are recognising the importance of stepping up and being a vocal ally to trans people. Despite this, however, trans-exclusionary attitudes remain very prevalent in politics and the media with severe consequences for the basic rights and safety of trans people, and so trans people are in need of allyship more than ever.

There are lots of small steps you can take to be a trans ally. Whether it is online or in person, simply listening to and supporting trans people can make a huge difference. On an interpersonal level, affirming trans people’s identities, using the correct pronouns and terms, and challenging people who deadname or misgender trans people can be very helpful. On a political level, you can support campaigns that advocate for trans equality and oppose policies that threaten trans rights.

Another part of allyship is countering the harmful misinformation about trans people in the media and in political discourse, both online and in person. Learn how to recognise unreliable sources and correct people who make incorrect claims. Hopefully this document can help to educate people about the facts about trans people.

References

Crenshaw, K. (1989). “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics”. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 139: 139–167.

E-Alliance (2023). Transgender Women Athletes and Elite Sport: A Scientific Review. https://www.cces.ca/sites/default/files/content/docs/pdf/transgenderwomenathletesandelitesport-ascientificreview-e-final.pdf

Galop (2020). Transphobic Hate Crime Report 2020. https://galop.org.uk/resource/transphobic-hate-crime-report-2020/

Hasenbush, A., Flores, A. R., and Herman, J. L. (2019). “Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Laws in Public Accommodations: A Review of Evidence Regarding Safety and Privacy in Public Restrooms, Locker Rooms, and Changing Rooms”. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 16: 70–83.

Hay, C. (2020). Think Like a Feminist: The Philosophy Behind the Revolution. W. W. Norton and Company.

Hines, S. (2020). “Sex Wars and (Trans) Gender Panics: Identity and Body Politics in Contemporary UK Feminism”. Sociological Review, 68: 699–717.

Jones, C., and Slater, J. (2020). “The Toilet Debate: Stalling Trans Possibilities and Defending ‘Women’s Protected Spaces’”. Sociological Review, 68: 834–851.

Kraschel, K. L., A. Chen, A., Turban, J. L., and Cohen, I. G. (2022). “Legislation Restricting Gender affirming Care for Transgender Youth: Politics Eclipse Healthcare”. Cell Reports Medicine, 3: e100719.

McLean, C. (2021). “The Growth of the Anti-Transgender Movement in the United Kingdom: The Silent Radicalization of the British Electorate”. International Journal of Sociology, 51: 473–482.

Office for National Statistics (2023). Gender Identity: England and Wales: Census 2021. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/culturalidentity/genderidentity/bulletins/genderidentityenglandandwales/census2021

Serano, J. (2007). Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Basic Books.

Stonewall (2018). LGBT in Britain: Trans Report. https://www.stonewall.org.uk/system/files/lgbt_in_britain_-_trans_report_final.pdf

Tordoff, D. M., Wanta, J. W., Collin, A., Stepney, C., Inwards-Breland, D. J., and Ahrens, K. (2022). “Mental Health Outcomes in Transgender and Nonbinary Youths Receiving Gender affirming Care”. JAMA Network Open, 5: e220978.World Population Review (2023). What Percentage of the Population is Transgender [Updated April 2023].  https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/transgender-population-by-state

Updated on February 20, 2024

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