As transgender rights move to the forefront of American politics, many people still maintain a complex set of views on gender identity. A new study from the Pew Research Center has found that a majority of Americans support laws protecting transgender people from discrimination, despite a rising share that believes gender is determined by the sex assigned at birth.
The survey of 10,188 US adults – which was conducted in May and published on Tuesday – revealed that 60 per cent of Americans believe a person’s gender is determined by their sex assigned at birth. The recent finding is a four per cent increase from 2021, and up from 54 per cent in 2017.
A person’s views on gender identity and transgender issues differs by age and political party, according to the study. Half of adults ages 18 to 29 say someone’s gender can change from the sex they were assigned at birth, compared to 66 per cent of adults age 50-64 and 64 per cent of those 65 and older who say a person’s gender is unchanging.
The vast majority of Republicans and conservative-leaning Americans also said gender is determined by sex assigned at birth, while the number of Democrats who share the same view is divided. 61 per cent of Democrats and liberal Americans believe gender is fluid, compared to 31 per cent of more conservative Democrats who disagree.
Although there was an increase in people who believe gender is determined by sex assigned at birth, this doesn’t necessarily indicate how Americans feel about legislation protecting transgender people from discrimination. In fact, a majority US adults (64 per cent) believe there should be more laws in place to protect transgender individuals from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public spaces.
Roughly eight in ten Americans say transgender people face at least some discrimination, while 57 per cent of adults say there is a great deal of discrimination against transgender people today. However, 38 per cent of Americans say society has gone too far in accepting transgender people, while only 36 per cent say society hasn’t gone far enough.
Unsurprisingly, those who say gender is not determined by sex assigned at birth also agree that transgender people face a great deal of discrimination.
The new survey comes after an onslaught of anti-LGBT+ laws have been introduced to state legislatures since the beginning of 2021, with more than 230 pieces of legislation affecting the LGBT+ community introduced this year alone.
A majority of these bills have sought to criminalize transgender healthcare, prevent transgender students and school staff from using bathrooms consistent with their gender, and ban transgender children from participating in youth sports.
Last month, Oklahoma passed a law requiring public school students to use only the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate. In April, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the nation’s first bill that could imprison doctors for up to 10 years for prescribing medical treatments to transgender youth. And in 2021, nine states banned transgender athletes from participating in sports that match their gender.
According to the new study, 58 per cent of Americans favor policies that require that transgender athletes to compete on teams that match the sex they were assigned at birth, rather than the gender they identify with. Some 46 per cent of adults say they would favor making it illegal for health care professionals to provide someone younger than 18 with medical care for gender transitions, while 41 per cent would favor requiring transgender individuals to use public bathrooms that match the sex they were assigned at birth.
As lawmakers in several states introduce legislation that prevent children and teens from learning about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools – such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill – a number of parents of K-12 students don’t think it’s good for their children to learn about people who are transgender or nonbinary from their teachers or other adults at school.
The debate around transgender issues continues to divide the American public. Although, it seems clear that information plays a major role in determining people’s views on gender identity and anti-trans discrimination – when asked if they are closely following news about bills affecting the lives of transgender individuals, 68 per cent of Americans said not at all .