Irish society has become more accepting of gender expression, but when it comes to the provision of intimate spaces and services, biological sex matters.
The Countess last month commissioned the first-ever independent survey into attitudes to gender in Ireland. It has revealed widespread support among the Irish public for single-sex spaces, services and sports.
- Our RedC Research poll questioned a representative sample of 1,020 adults last month on a range of gender-related issues. It comes amid growing calls for a public debate over gender- and sex-based rights in the light of controversial decisions such as plans to roll out mixed-sex toilets in Irish secondary schools and the selection of the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympic Games.
- The majority of those polled favour single-sex facilities and care provision, while more than half are opposed to people being allowed to compete in sports of the opposite birth sex.
- More than three-quarters of respondents (77%) agreed that people should have the right to request that intimate medical examinations are carried out by a person of the same birth sex.
- 62% said public buildings such as schools and banks should have to provide single-sex toilets.
- 64% agreed that hospitals should be required to provide single-sex wards.
- 55% of respondents said males who identify as women should not be allowed to compete in women’s sports at any level, versus 21% in favour.
The results also revealed that while half of adults believe that people should have the right to change their sex on their birth certificate, most of them feel this should only be permitted once some action has been taken towards gender reassignment via hormones or surgery.
- Fewer than one in five (17%) respondents agreed with the law as it currently stands that a person should be allowed to change their birth certificate as soon as they self-identify as the opposite sex.
- 34% thought it should be permitted once a person has partially or fully transitioned through hormone treatment and/or genital surgery.
- 28% of people said individuals should not be allowed to change sex on their birth certificate at all.
This is the first time the public has been given a say on gender self-identification. When the government passed the Gender Recognition Act in 2015 it did so with little thought of the effect it would have on the wider community, let alone consultation with groups that would be most affected, particularly women.
Males, no matter how they identify, should not have access to women’s spaces, services and sports, and this shows that the majority of people in Ireland agree. We are encouraged that the Irish public values the safety, privacy and dignity of women and girls. This is about what is fair.
The survey provides clear evidence that Irish law is out of step with public opinion.
Fewer than one in five respondents agree that a person should be able to change the sex on their birth certificate with no gatekeeping whatsoever, while 62% think either it should not be allowed at all, or only once a person has transitioned through hormones and genital surgery.
These results suggest we need a much wider public discussion on the law as it currently stands. There is an urgent need for more clarity in the debate on biological sex and gender, as well as for greater transparency on how the distinction between sex and gender affects public policy and law.
Good policy and law are based on precise language. When it comes to sex and gender, we need clear definitions – otherwise it becomes impossible to protect sex-based rights.
GENDER POLL Key findings
- The majority of adults are in favour of single-sex facilities and care provision. Women in particular believe they should have the right to request and be provided with a medical provider of the same birth sex for intimate examinations, in addition to single sex wards and single sex toilets in public buildings.
- While just over half of the population are in favour of allowing a person to change the sex on their birth certificate, most of these think that it should be on the condition of having undergone hormone treatment or genital surgery first. Just over one in four (28%) believe birth certificates should never be changed.
- People over 34 years old are more likely to assert that self-identification should be conditional upon partial or full gender reassignment.
- More people than not are in favour of children being taught in school that you can be born in the wrong body, it’s possible to change sex and that there are many different genders. But the high levels of opposition and uncertainty, particularly among parents, suggest a wider debate could be had.
- Stronger sentiment that people who have transitioned without undergoing full reassignment surgery should not be allowed to compete in sports of the opposite birth sex, particularly in cases of male to female, or to access prisons, changing rooms and refuges of the opposite sex.
- The majority of those that express an opinion believe sex offenders should not be allowed to obtain a gender recognition certificate.
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