Poll: Irish public not real keen on the transgender sports stuff

As ever, with opinion polling, sometimes the questions that get asked are almost as interesting as the answers:

A majority of people do not believe transgender women should be allowed to compete in female sports, according to the latest Sunday Independent/Ireland Thinks poll.

The figures reveal striking differences in attitudes among respondents, depending on age and political allegiance.

However, significantly more people agree than disagree with the statements that “a transgender man is a man” and “a transgender woman is a woman”.

I’d make two observations here: First, in this poll, by a whopping margin of 68% to 17%, the Irish public do not believe, for example, that people who were born male should be able to compete on an equal footing in female sports. Which makes me wonder how likely it is that those same people would answer differently if, for example, they were asked whether people who were born male should be accommodated in female prisons, or whether people who were born male should be automatically able to designate themselves as female and use female changing rooms, or bathrooms. I am guessing, but I suspect the answers would not be radically different.

The second observation is this: The second question asked, about whether people agree or differ with the statement “a transgender man is a man” will clearly give progressives the warm and fuzzies and a sense that on the rest of the transgender issue, the public just needs some more nudging towards the compassionate approach.  But I’d question, honestly, what proportion of the public knows the difference between a trans man and a trans woman. I write about this stuff for a living, and sometimes I get mixed up. The answer for the record is that a “trans man” is somebody who was born a woman, but has transitioned to being a man, and a “trans woman” was born a woman, but has transitioned to being a female. I strongly suspect that there is some meaningful number of people in Ireland who hear “trans man” and think “a man who is transgendered”. Therefore, when they say that such a person is a man, they’re actually giving the opposite answer to the one they think they are giving.

In any case, even if you discard that entire paragraph as speculation, the numbers in this poll do not quite paint a picture of a nation that is entirely supportive of our present gender recognition laws. Those laws, remember, allow adult to legally change their gender and all of their legal documents at any time, with no requirement for any medical treatment, or  diagnosis, or even that the person has lived as the opposite gender for any time. Ironically, the law reduces gender to nothing more than personal choice, even though transgendered people would tell you that they did not choose to experience life as they do.

I am interested, though, in what the answer to this problem is: Conservatives tend to focus, rightly in my view, on the explosion in the raw numbers of teenagers and adults identifying as transgender, and all of the associated issues around treatment and mental health, and so on, as well as the impact on women and women’s spaces. That’s an important debate.

But there are, also, many transgender people whose transition makes them very happy, and who pose no threat to anybody else. It is important, I think, that this be recognised. Are we to say that those people have no right to compete in sports?

The transgender woman, in particular, is in an invidious position. Born male, they are much stronger naturally than women, even having taken female hormones. But having taken those hormones, they are much weaker than men. Into what category do they go? Is it, for example, the position that transgender people just can’t play sports at a high level, and this is something they just have to suck up? That seems harsh.

Perhaps the solution is some kind of “open” category, if the demand for it is high enough. Let anybody who wishes to enter, enter it. Anyway, these are the problems society faces, in 2022. What a time to be alive.

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