Metro Weekly

Anti-Transgender Sentiment Is Growing In America

anti-transgender sentiment is more widespread among the general public.

Photo: Gindomarlo, via Wikimedia

According to two new polls, more Americans support laws restricting the freedoms of transgender Americans, especially with regard to participation in sports and access to medical care for minors.

A Scripps News/YouGov web-based poll of 1,000 respondents released last Wednesday finds that more than 4 in 10 Americans, or 44%, support “laws that would restrict and, or ban transgender care for minors, even with parents’ consent,” in their state. Thirty-four percent say they oppose such measures.

Three-quarters of Republicans, or 75%, say they support more restrictive measures passing in their states, while 60% of Democrats say they oppose the measures.

A plurality of independents, or 45%, say they support the more restrictive measures, while 29% say they oppose them.

The results of the Scripps News/YouGov poll run counter to findings from surveys in previous years indicating that members of both parties opposed laws blocking minors from accessing gender-affirming care.

Republicans have increasingly focused on opposing gender-nonconformity or displays of transgender visibility — particularly among or near children — as an issue that galvanizes their base.

At least 17 states with Republican-led legislatures have passed bills restricting gender-affirming treatments for minors.

The Scripps poll found a majority, or 54%, of Americans support amending Title IX to bar transgender female students from competing in female-designated sports, with 83% of Republicans and 58% of independents in favor.

Republicans have sought to use transgender participation in athletics as a wedge issue to paint Democrats as out of touch, with several potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates, including former President Donald Trump and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, emphasizing the issue on the campaign trail.

The Biden administration recently proposed new guidelines that would prohibit categorical bans on transgender athletes in sports, but would allow individual schools or school districts to use other criteria, focusing on an individual athlete’s development and whether they’d enjoy a significant physical edge over competitors, to determine their eligibility to play on certain sports teams.

The results of the survey may indicate that Americans’ views on transgender issues overall are shifting in a more conservative direction, as they become more uncomfortable with the idea of youth transitioning genders or participating in sports. But it also shows an increasing divide between people based on their political affiliation.

“This more recent data shows Republicans have a strong response against trans care and admission to women’s sports, whereas Democrats are strongly in favor of those same issues,” Melissa Moore, an associated research director at YouGov, told Scripps News. “Both parties have shifted — Republicans and independents much more so than Democrats,” said Moore.

The results of the Scripps News/YouGov poll align with findings from a poll by the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation, indicating that anti-transgender sentiment is more widespread among the general public.

For instance, that poll finds that 57% of Americans — including about half of young adults — don’t even believe in the underlying concept of transgender identity, holding the view that one’s gender is determined solely by a person’s biological anatomy at birth.

Similarly, a poll by the Pew Research Center last year found that 60% of Americans believe one’s gender is determined by their assigned sex at birth.

The Post-KFF poll found that 7 in 10 adults oppose allowing children ages 10 to 14 to receive puberty blockers, and 6 in 10 oppose allowing youth ages 15 to 17 to receive hormone therapy.

However, Americans, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin supported “gender-affirming counseling or therapy” for trans-identifying minors, regardless of age.

The arguments around opposition to gender-affirming care largely focus on the irreversible nature of surgical interventions — which, although rarely performed on minors, can still be galvanizing — and whether youth, even with parental permission, are mature enough to make such decisions.

“We can’t vote until we’re a certain age, we can’t smoke, drink or whatever, but we can change our bodies’ anatomy and how it works? It just doesn’t seem like that’s okay to me,” Alyssa Wells, a 29-year-old behavior therapist and one of the poll respondents, told the Post.

Wells also noted that her views changed in recent years as she learned more about transgender health treatments from Christian podcasts — perhaps not the most unbiased source of information, but an influential one in shaping public opinion.

The Post-KFF poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose allowing transgender youth to participate in sports that do not match their assigned sex at birth. That applies to all levels of competition — in professional sports, collegiate-level, and high schools sports, as well as in sports for prepubescent youth, when physiological differences between male and female athletes are typically less stark. 

That strong opposition may explain why 21 states have successfully implemented bans on transgender athletes with little blowback.

Last month, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to amend Title IX — the federal civil rights law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education — to define “sex” as “based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”

Under the proposed ban, schools, leagues, or organizations that allow transgender women and girls to compete on female-designated sports teams can be threatened with the loss of federal financial assistance.

The poll also shows significant support for restricting classroom conversations about gender identity in schools. More than three-quarters of Americans support such restrictions from kindergarten to third grade, and 7 in 10 support such restrictions in fourth and fifth grade.

Americans are more evenly divided when it comes to broaching LGBTQ-related topics in middle school, with only 52% of Americans supporting gags on classroom discussions. At the same time, a majority of Americans are fine with such topics being broached at the high school level — though presumably in a limited context.

Currently, eight states have laws prohibiting classroom discussions of LGBTQ issues, which opponents have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” laws.

Chief among those states is Florida, which recently expanded its ban on LGBTQ discussions both legislatively and through regulations governing teacher conduct. Under those restrictions, LGBTQ-themed discussions may only be broached only in certain high school-level classes such as biology and sex education.

Unsurprisingly, the Post-KFF poll also found that transgender adults oppose most of these restrictions, with 7 in 10 supporting the idea of transgender athletes participating in sports, and 7 in 10 supporting puberty blockers for youth struggling with gender dysphoria.

The poll also found differing opinions based on familiarity with the transgender community.

For example, among the 43% of Americans who personally know someone who is transgender (not just as an acquaintance), a majority are more likely to say a person’s gender can differ from their assigned sex at birth, whereas only one-third of those without a personal connection say the same.

At the same time, there is some cognitive dissonance among Americans. Despite supporting restrictions on various aspects of transgender people’s freedom to live, unimpeded, according to their gender identity, a majority of Americans claim to oppose discrimination against members of the transgender community.

According to the Post-KFF poll, more than 7 in 10 Americans oppose housing discrimination, employment discrimination, health-insurance discrimination, educational discrimination, and discrimination by medical professionals. Sixty-nine percent of Americans claim to oppose discrimination against LGBTQ students in schools, while 65% oppose barring LGBTQ Americans from serving in the Armed Forces.

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!