More than a third of all UK citizens are not aware that transgender women are biologically male, according to a recent poll. This calls into question the fundamental understanding of the cultural debate over gender.
Campaigners have noted journalists, pollsters, and those involved in politics must be more explicit when discussing gender, per The Telegram.
The poll was carried out by Murray Blackburn Mackenzie (MBM), an Edinburgh-based policy analysis group. They found that 35 percent of the UK population incorrectly believed that a “transgender woman” was someone born female, or that they were unsure.
The confusion was even more evident when asked about the term “trans woman,” with 40 percent of the population either being unsure or believing it meant someone who was simply registered as a female at birth.
The MBM called out several bodies, including the BBC, which it claimed used the terms with no explanation, such as in stories about transgender athletes or the debate over self-identification, per the report.
As a result, the poll revealed that there were “high levels of misunderstanding and confusion” about the terms used, and that the language used needed to be more explicit.
Lisa Mackenzie, one of MBM’s founders, said “[u]sing these terms, without spelling out what they mean for a person’s sex as matter of course, will leave a large minority of people at best uncertain.”
“At worst, they will have a back-to-front understanding of what they are being told or asked.”
She continued: “These results show that to avoid confusion and misunderstanding, journalists and others need to spell out clearly what sex of person is being referred to, in any context where sex matters.”
“We also hope organisations which need to communicate with the public will commission further research as necessary, to understand how language here may confuse or clarify.”
The terms were understood least in London, with 35 percent believing “trans woman” meant someone registered as female at birth. The poll noted that the finding could be due to the capital playing host to many residents whose first language is not English.
When it came to age group, the terms were least understood by those aged 25 to 34. Just 55 percent correctly understood “transgender woman” to mean someone who was born male, while just 52 percent understood what “trans woman” meant.
The age group that best understood these terms were those aged 18 to 24.
Maya Forstater, director of the Sex Matters campaign group, noted that it was “very worrying” that so many people misunderstood what the terms meant.
“When policy decisions are being made and rules are explained it is crucial that people understand what is meant.”
“Whether it is accuracy in a news story, politicians explaining a policy or service providers communicating a rule, they need to spell out clearly whether the person is male or female.”
“Terms like ‘trans woman’ and ‘transgender woman’ are confusing – intentionally so.”
Survation carried out two separate polls for each term, with 1,008 and 1,026 UK adults respectively, between June 15 and 19, and then again from June 23 to 26.