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Poll Finds Majority of Americans Support Anti-Trans Policies Despite Claiming to Oppose Discrimination

Poll Finds Majority of Americans Support Anti-Trans Policies Despite Claiming to Oppose Discrimination

trans-rights protesters

A majority of respondents to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll say gender is determined at birth and support restrictions on health care and sports participation.

A majority of Americans believe a person’s gender is determined at birth and support some restrictions on gender-affirming care for young people — but they also oppose discrimination against transgender people, according to a new poll.

But the political debate around these issues, with Republicans pushing anti-trans legislation, has made some Americans more conservative, reports The Washington Post, which conducted the poll along with KFF, formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“You have a big swath of the American public still trying to make sense of this issue,” Patrick Egan, a scholar of American politics and public opinion at New York University, told the Post. “This is a battle and a debate that is unfolding in real time before our eyes, and we don’t know how it’s going to turn out.”

In the Post-KFF poll, conducted November 10 through December 1, 57 percent of respondents said a person’s gender can’t differ from what was assigned at birth, while 43 percent said it can.

One respondent, 29-year-old behavior therapist Alyssa Wells, said her views about trans issues have shifted from listening to Christian podcasts. “My concern with transgender is mostly with the children,” she said. “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 OK to me.”

Genital surgery, by the way, is not usually recommended for minors, although a small number undergo top surgery. Adolescents do often receive hormones and puberty blockers.

Other polls have seen an increase in respondents saying gender is fixed at birth. In one conducted last year by the Pew Research Center, 60 percent gave that response, up from 54 percent in 2017. “Even among young adults, who are the most accepting of trans identity, about half said in the Post-KFF poll that a person’s gender is determined by their sex at birth,” the Post reports.

A majority of participants in the Post-KFF poll opposed some gender-affirming treatments for young people. Sixty-eight percent opposed the use of puberty blockers for trans youth aged 10-14, and 58 percent opposed hormonal treatments for those aged 15-17. Majorities did approve of gender-affirming counseling or therapy for both age groups.

There was also majority opposition to letting trans girls and women compete on female sports teams. More than 60 percent opposed trans inclusion, whether in youth, high school, college, or professional sports.

Majorities said it was inappropriate for teachers to trans identity in the classroom before students reach high school. Seventy-seven percent said it was not appropriate in kindergarten through third grade, 70 percent in fourth and fifth grade, and 52 percent in sixth through eighth grade. Only 36 percent said it was inappropriate in ninth through 12th grades.

Despite all this, a majority of respondents said they oppose anti-transgender discrimination. Majorities supported laws banning such discrimination in jobs, housing, the military, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, insurance, and health care.

The poll included 1,338 U.S. adults, including 515 who are trans and 823 who are cisgender. Unsurprisingly, trans people were more supportive than cis ones of access to gender-affirming care and inclusion in sports, and a majority said gender can differ from what was assigned at birth. Cis respondents who know someone who’s trans were also more likely to accept that gender is not always determined at birth.

Still, “transphobia is really rampant today the way homophobia was with Anita Bryant,” the singer who campaigned against gay and lesbian rights in the 1970s, historian Natalia Petrzela told the Post. “I think we’ve evolved. But we haven’t evolved that much,” Petrzela added.

Some observers are optimistic that this evolution will continue. “This is all very new to the American public, so unlike some of the other cultural issues, these opinions are not set in stone,” Lanae Erickson, senior vice president for social policy and politics at the moderate Democratic think tank Third Way, told the paper.

“This is not abortion,” she said. “This is not even marriage equality. People have not talked about the details. The more you talk to people, the more they change.”

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