By Carrie Blazina & Chris Baronavski, Pew Research Center
In recent years, many states have considered or enacted policies related to people who are transgender. On a couple of these measures, there is some agreement among Americans, but views of other policies are more divided, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
Overall, just 8% of Americans say they are following news about bills recently proposed by several states related to people who are transgender either extremely or very closely, according to the survey, which was conducted May 16-22 among 10,188 U.S. adults. About two-thirds (68%) say they are following news about these bills a little or not at all closely.
At least 21 states have passed some kind of restriction on transgender people, such as limiting the ability of transgender student-athletes to play on sports teams that match their gender identity; making it illegal for healthcare professionals to provide someone younger than 18 with medical care for a gender transition; excluding coverage of medical care for gender transitions from state Medicaid; or making it illegal for public school districts to teach about gender identity in elementary schools. At least seven states – Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas – have passed two or more of these restrictions.
Overall, a 64% majority of Americans favor policies that protect transgender individuals from discrimination in jobs, housing and public spaces such as restaurants and stores, including 37% who strongly favor them. A much smaller share (10%) oppose or strongly oppose these policies, while 25% neither favor nor oppose them.
The Supreme Court ruled in June 2020 in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, that “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII” of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – making such employment discrimination illegal.
In February 2021, the U.S. House passed the Equality Act, which would expand the Civil Rights Act to explicitly “prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation” in housing, employment, public accommodations, and other areas. The bill has been awaiting action in the Senate since March.
At the state level, at least 21 states, as well as the District of Columbia, ban discrimination in housing, jobs, and public spaces based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Utah bans discrimination in housing and employment, but not public accommodations. Wisconsin bans discrimination in all three categories, but only based on sexual orientation, not gender identity.
When asked about views of possible restrictions on trans people, only one is endorsed by a majority of Americans: 58% say they would favor or strongly favor policies that require transgender athletes to compete on teams that match the sex they were assigned at birth. About four-in-ten (41%) would strongly favor these policies. Only 17% oppose or strongly oppose them, while about a quarter of U.S. adults (24%) neither favor nor oppose these policies.
At least 18 states restrict transgender student athletes’ ability to play on sports teams that match their gender identity. In March 2020, Idaho was the first state to pass a law limiting trans student athletes’ participation in sports, and Louisiana became the 18th state to do so in June.
Americans’ views of other restrictions on trans people are more closely divided.
On potential policies that require transgender individuals to use public bathrooms that match the sex they were assigned at birth, not their gender identity, Americans’ views are mixed. Around four-in-ten (41%) would at least somewhat favor these policies. About three-in-ten (31%) would at least somewhat oppose these policies, and 28% neither favor nor oppose them.
No states currently have measures that explicitly ban adults from using public bathrooms that match their gender identity. A prominent 2016 North Carolina law that required people to use the public bathroom matching their sex assigned at birth was repealed in 2017.
At least three states restrict public school students’ ability to use the bathroom matching their gender identity: Alabama, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.
Gender identity in school curriculum
Americans are closely split when it comes to potential laws and policies that would make it illegal for public school districts to teach about gender identity in elementary schools: 41% say they would favor or strongly favor these and 38% would oppose or strongly oppose them. About two-in-ten (21%) neither favor nor oppose them.
A Florida law that took effect in July says classroom discussion “on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” A similar Alabama law was signed into law in April. Lawmakers in at least 20 states have introduced similar bills this year.
In the May survey, the Center asked parents of K-12 students whether any of their children have learned about people who are transgender or who don’t identify as a boy or a girl from a teacher or another adult at their school.
Some 37% of parents with children in middle or high school say their children have learned about people who are transgender or who don’t identify as a boy or a girl from a teacher or another adult at their school; a much smaller share of parents of elementary school students (16%) say the same. Overall, 29% of parents with children in elementary, middle or high school say at least one of their K-12 children have learned about this at school.
Medical coverage, care for gender transitions
More Americans say they would oppose or strongly oppose (44%) than say they would favor or strongly favor (27%) requiring health insurance companies to cover medical care for gender transitions, and 28% neither favor nor oppose this.
The landscape of insurance coverage for gender transitions is varied. Overall, at least 24 states, as well as the District of Columbia, either require private health insurance companies to cover medical care for gender transitions, prohibit them from creating blanket policy exclusions for gender transition and related services, or simply prohibit companies from withholding insurance plans or charging different premiums because of someone’s gender identity. At least 25 states and D.C. include medical care for gender transitions in their Medicaid programs. At least eight states explicitly exclude transition-related medical care coverage from their Medicaid programs; in August, a court ruling overturned West Virginia’s exclusion.
Some 46% of Americans say they would favor or strongly favor making it illegal for health care professionals to provide someone younger than 18 with medical care for gender transitions. About three-in-ten (31%) say they would oppose or strongly oppose this policy, while 22% neither favor nor oppose this.
In May, a federal judge blocked part of the Alabama law passed in April that would have made it a felony for doctors to provide hormones and puberty-blocking medication for transgender minors. Arkansas passed a ban in 2021 on doctors providing transition-related care for trans youth, but a judge blocked that law from going into effect. Arizona passed a law in March that bans physicians from “performing irreversible gender reassignment surgeries on minors.” It takes effect in 2023.
Several states, including Idaho and New Hampshire, have considered bills that classify helping minors access medical care for gender transitions as child abuse, but these attempts have failed. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive that defined such care as abuse has been blocked twice in court. Americans’ views are split on whether they would favor or oppose laws and policies that require parents to be investigated for child abuse if they helped someone younger than 18 get medical care for a gender transition: 37% say they would at least somewhat favor these laws and 36% at least somewhat oppose the idea, while 27% neither favor nor oppose it. Q