Section 28 was a British law until 2000 that required government authorities to censor and omit any information on homosexuality. Nearly two decades after its repeal, gay Brits lambasted the law for the damage it caused it in their youth–the deafening silence of the resources available to them led many to believe something was inherently wrong with them. Its heinous effects haven’t deterred the press from quoting Section 28 arguments verbatim, only this time against trans people.
Part of the reason why those previous studies so greatly underestimated the trans population is that they were not counting trans people per se, but rather the number of people diagnosed with Transsexualism/GID from one of the few Gender Identity Clinics that existed at the time. Very few trans people could financially afford or logistically access these clinics, and those who did found that there were strict criteria one had to meet in order to obtain that diagnosis. I discuss those standards in detail in Whipping Girl, but here I will mention two particularly relevant criteria: You had to be able to pass as cisgender, and be willing to hide your trans status post-transition. This point is crucial, given how much of today’s anti-trans fear-mongering seems to be driven (or enabled) by the following false logic: 1) there were hardly any transgender people twenty or thirty years ago, 2) now suddenly they are everywhere, 3) therefore, there must be some external unnatural force (e.g., transgender agendas, peer pressure, social contagion) that is artificially creating all these newly minted trans people. However, the reality is that trans people have always existed; it’s just that during that time period, most were not allowed to transition, and the few who did were forced to hide that fact from the world.
An early challenge to those old dubious statistics was Lynn Conway’s work[PDF link] in 2001–2007 examining multiple lines of evidence (other than diagnoses from Gender Identity Clinics), which led to the conclusion that “the lower bound on the prevalence of transsexualism is at least 1:500, and possibly higher.” Further support for such higher figures was provided by a 2011 Williams Institute report (derived from population-based surveys in California in 2003 and Massachusetts in 2007 and 2009) that estimated that 0.3% of the population is transgender. (Note: many people who self-identify as transgender do not take steps to socially or physically transition, so this estimate would be expected to be somewhat larger than the prevalence of transsexualism.)
More recently, a 2016 Williams Institute report surveying all fifty U.S. states estimated that 0.6% of the population identifies as transgender, with some states (e.g., Hawaii, California, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida) in the 0.7 to 0.8% range. Given current trends, I would not be surprised if these numbers continue to increase somewhat over time. After all, these studies are not actually measuring the prevalence of discomfort with one’s birth-assigned gender, or a desire to be the other/another gender. They are simply tallying the number of people who currently identify as transgender and are willing to state that in a survey. And despite all the manufactured fears about peer pressure turning people transgender, the brunt of societal pressure continues to push people toward cisgender identities, and coerce them to repress gender non-conforming tendencies.
We know that the opportunistic vultures peddling transphobic nonsense for clicks have abandoned logic except as a pretense, but if you want an explanation for why their concerns are fabricated, read more here.