Majority of school pupils wouldn’t know how to support a trans friend, new research finds

by Just Like Us
March 2024

Trans Day of Visibility billboard

The majority (64%) of secondary school pupils would not know how to support a friend if they came out as trans or non-binary, according to new research from Just Like Us in partnership with VotesforSchools. 

More than 28,200 secondary school pupils across the UK (aged 11 to 16) were asked the question: “Would you know how to support a friend who came out as trans or non-binary?” by VotesforSchools. Just over a third (36%) answered “yes”, and the majority (64%) answered “no”. 

However, when the same question was posed to 16+ and college pupils, 56% said they would know how to support a friend who came out as trans or non-binary, while 44% said they would not.

In primary schools, 5 to 7-year-olds were asked: “Do you know what an ally is?” 80% agreed that they know what an ally is, while 20% said they did not. 

Primary school pupils aged 7 to 11 answered the question: “Do you know how to be an ally?” 80% said they did know how to be an ally, while 20% said they did not. 

Released on Trans Day of Visibility (31 March), the new independent research was conducted by VotesforSchools and surveyed 42,157 primary school, secondary school and college pupils across the UK between 18 and 22 March 2024. 

Trans Day of Visibility billboard that reads: We are here to stay, proud, everywhere, brave, unapologetic, courageous, caring, real... the words run off the page

One primary school pupil surveyed in Yorkshire said: “I know that if I stick up for someone when something wrong is happening I am an ally. We can be a voice for someone else. Telling someone when you see or hear something that is not okay.”

A secondary school pupil in Surrey said: “Even if I didn’t have all the information to begin with, I would get there in the end, learning how best to support my friend.”

Another secondary pupil, at a school in Yorkshire, said: “It’s such a new topic that feels incredibly sensitive so we’re more unsure if we’d do the right thing.”

A London secondary school pupil said: “I wouldn’t have any advice at first, but I will be able to listen and hopefully learn.”

Trans Day of Visibility billboards

To coincide with the research, Just Like Us has also launched billboards for Trans Day of Visibility. The billboards feature positive messaging about trans young people, designed by young trans ambassadors at Just Like Us, and are displayed at sites across the UK in partnership with Clear Channel, who have generously provided the space to uplift the voices of trans young people. 

Trans Day of Visibility billboard that reads: We are powerful, loved, authentic, valued, cared for, accepted, strong, talented... the words run off the page

Laura Mackay, Chief Executive of Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity, said: “We know that the trans and non-binary young people we work with are deeply affected by the anti-trans climate right now in the UK, and the support of those around them, including their peers, is vital. 

“While primary school pupils appear to be confident in their understanding of allyship, we can see that by secondary school, two thirds of pupils are unsure of how they might support a friend who has come out as trans. I suspect that the fact that this is also a time in a young person’s life when they become more aware of narratives in media and politics is not a coincidence. 

“Though it is encouraging that by the end of their school years more young people feel equipped to be allies, at Just Like Us we want all young people to have the knowledge and tools to support their trans and non-binary friends in this harsh climate. 

“We are incredibly grateful to VotesforSchools for collaborating on this research, and to Clear Channel for helping us to celebrate and uplift trans young people’s voices by giving us space to display our Trans Day of Visibility billboards.” 


Georgie Emery, Head of Educational Strategy at VotesforSchools, said: “At VotesforSchools, we believe that young people’s voices are vital in helping us build an open, inclusive, and engaged future society; this is why we seek their thoughts on a topical issue every week through our resources and voting platform.

“When it comes to discussions about the LGBT+ community, it is clear that young people feel passionately that the stories and experiences of the community need to be heard, and that schools have a huge part to play in enabling that. We are very proud to have observed the transformative power that LGBT+ inclusive education can have on young people’s attitudes and relationships, but it is clear from these results that we still have a long way to go.”