June 24, 2022

New Norwegian survey shows increased public support for LGBTQ+ people, trans people included

Over 70% of Norwegian women think it is OK to share a locker room with a transgender person.  Over 60% support gay, lesbian and bisexual people, while some 50 percent express support for transgender people. The support for queer people is increasing. That is not bad, the current anti-LGBT activism considered.

[UPDATE: Click here for an update on the recent terrorist attack against Oslo Pride and what that may mean for Norwegian support of queer people].

LGBTQA+ issues have become weaponized in what some refer to as "the culture war." In many ways we see a repeat of the way queer people were used as a threat in the mid-war period, when especially Fascists and Nazis presented gay and gender nonconforming people as a threat to the social order and the common man. 

"Gender critical" TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) and right wing extremists have now come to the point where they want to force trans people back into their closets. In countries like the USA, Russia, Poland and Hungary, the extreme right are going after all queer people, and not only those trans. 

An important question is therefore whether this kind of hate activism reflects broader trends among the population as a whole or whether this is more about extremists making a lot of noise, with little effect on the attitudes found among people in general.

A recent British study shows that Brits in general are very LGBTQA-friendly, and that a majority feel an admiration for trans people. 

Given the intense anti-trans activism of transphobic British TERFs, right wing fundamentalists and the media in that country, the British numbers may indicate that the trend towards increased acceptance of queer people has a fairly strong fundament, in the sense that the many  countries continue to move towards greater  LGBT+ acceptance.

The Norwegian survey of public attitudes towards LGBT+

The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir) published an updated version of its survey of people's attitudes towards what they refer to as "LGBTIQ" people earlier this week. This provides an interesting case of shifts in attitudes in one country.

Norway is generally seen as a fairly tolerant country, LGBT+ wise, as is reflected in this week's pride celebration in many cities, where most public buildings, schools included, have raised the rainbow flag. 

The public debate has not reached the level of toxicity we have seen in many other countries. The TERFs does not have the kind of support they have in countries like Britain and Sweden, but the amount of anti-trans propaganda has increased during the last couple of years, and "gender critical radical feminists"  have contributed to this backlash.

The Norwegian survey indicates that the general support for LGBTIQ-people remains strong in Norway. Indeed, it continues to increase. 

The support for trans people also remains strong, although it seems like the anti-trans propaganda and the increased focus on transgender issues might have had a minor negative effect. This especially applies to non-binary people. Norwegian cis-people seems to be  somewhat more comfortable with trans people living up to the binary.

I 2022 the survey had 1305 respondents, and is considered to be representative of the population as a whole.

Increased support for LGB people

The following figure shows a continuing decline in negative attitudes towards lesbians, gay men and bisexual people.

Negative attitudes towards sexual orientations (Lesbians, gay men, bisexual women, bisexual men).

This is reflected in the increased support for the same groups.

Positive attitudes towards sexual orientations (lesbians, gay men, bisexual women, bisexual men)

The question given to the respondents was: "all in all, what is your attitude towards [the categories given]?" The "positive" and "very positive" responses have been merged. 

More men than women are negative to LHB-persons. In 2022 10% of men were negative to gay men. The similar number for women was 2%.

Support for trans people is high, but flattening out

The negative attitudes towards transpeople remain relkatively low, especially as regards "persons who have changed sex" (a very old fashioned term for people who have transitioned) and "transpersons" (an ambiguous tern), both at around 10%. 

Negative attitudes towards gender identity and gender expression (category names translated by us)

The hostility towards non-binary people seems to be increasing, though.  However, I do not think that this negativity towards nonbinary people is that significant, which becomes clearer when we look at the numbers for support of trans people.

Positive attitudes towards gender identity and gender expression (category names translated by us)

Note that there are two categories of nonbinary people. The support for those who see themselves as both men and women is declining slightly. This is also reflected in more people reacting negatively to this group (see above). 

The support for people who see themselves neither as men and women is increasing, however, and this is also reflected in a declining percentage of respondents who have a negative perception of this group. If we merge the two categories of nonbinary people, we get close to a flat curve.

I am not completely sure why some respondents are more provoked by nonbinary people that see themselves as both men and women, than by those who dismiss the binary completely. It might be that these respondents find the first group more threatening to a strict divide between men as women, as the latter can be seen as some kind of irrelevant third gender. 

Oslo Pride 2019, Mattis Sandblad, VG/NTB
All in all 19 % are negative to the «see themselves as both men and women» category. Among men the number is 26%, among women 11%. 

This huge difference in negativity between men and women makes me suspect that what we see here is the fear of femininity or gender ambiguity in those raised as men. You will find a lot of misogynistic cultural conditioning, also in a fairly liberal country as Norway.

In any case the differences between nonbinary and other trans people may be significant in a statistical sense, but they are not that large. 

Note that the data also shows increased support for gender nonconforming people.

In other words: The positive attitudes to trans people continue to increase, although not in the same degree as previously. This tells me that the anti-trans activists have failed in their attempts to demonize trans people in Norway.

There is still transphobia

The positive numbers for support of trans people does not entail that there is no transphobia in Norway, though, far from it. 

Around 50% express positive attitudes to trans people, as opposed to over 60% for LGB people. In an historical perspective 50% is a very high number, but for trans people who meet invalidation on a daily basis that is not much of a comfort. Trans people are more likely to be seen as the threatening "Other" than other LGBTQA-people.

The survey also include questions aimed at exposing the emotions underlying people's attitudes to queer people. Bufdir asked, for instance,  respondents about how the they would feel about having a prime minister that is different from the majority. 

Six percent said they would feel uncomfortable with having a lesbian, gay or bisexual person as prime minister, while 17% would not like to have a trans person in that position. In other words: Transphobia is more rampant than homophobia and biphobia.  

14% said they would feel uncomfortable with having a trans person who had transitioned as prime minister, a slightly lower number than 17% above. I suspect this reflect a more deeply felt unease with gender ambiguity.

Skeive dager, Oslo 2011, Photo by Tjook

Support for Pride

Three out of five thinks it is important to celebrate Pride, although two out of five men think Pride "takes up too much space". 

Only one in five thinks that public institutions should not celebrate Pride.

Given the Republican madness is American states like Texas and Florida, it might be interesting to know that four out of five Norwegians think that it is good for kids to know about different sexual orientations.

58% dismiss the idea that having a LHB kid would bother them. 46.6% say the same about having a transgender child.

Only 8% of the respondents think that "conversion therapy" would work on LHB people. Even fewer (7%) think you can change someone's gender identity by use of such practices.

67% say that "conversion therapy" should be banned.

Sharing a locker room with a trans person

Norwegian's do not buy into the TERF narrative that trans women is a threat to cis women in public locker rooms.

Indeed, 71% of Norwegian women say that they do not agree with the statement "I would feel uncomfortable with sharing a locker room with someone I knew was a transgender person."

13.2% of women agrees with the statement.

Degree of agreement with the statement "I would feel uncomfortable with sharing a locker room with someone I knew was a transgender person." (Our translation)

Whatever Norwegian TERFs says, the great majority of Norwegian women are not afraid of trans women. 

For som reason, however, it seems that more cis men are afraid of Norwegian trans men (20%).  Or maybe not. The question is ambiguous. Their answer might mean that some of the men would feel uncomfortable with sharing a locker room with a transgender woman, which is not that unreasonable.

To conclude: In a Norway the increasing aggression towards queer and trans people in the media and in politics does not reflect more hostility in the population as a whole. I suspect the same is the case in many democratic countries, as similar data from Britain seem to imply.

Photo: Sharon McCutcheon, Pexels

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