Where Americans stand on 20 transgender policy issues

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
February 16, 2024, 3:47 PM GMT+0

There is no broad consensus in the U.S. when it comes to policies that affect transgender people. No more than six in 10 Americans line up on the same side of any of 40 policies that either expand or restrict rights and protection for transgender people. Majorities agree with existing protections in the U.S. for transgender people against hate crimes and discriminatory firings, but transgender inclusion in athletics, prisons, and public bathrooms all receive more opposition than support.

A recent survey of 2,000 Americans asked about 20 policies affecting transgender Americans. To prevent imbalance from asking about only one side of an issue, both sides of each issue were asked about separately. Each respondent was asked about each issue in one of the two ways, assigned at random, yielding a sample size of about 1,000 people giving their view on each of 40 policy positions. The way of presenting the issue that had the higher percentage taking the supportive side was the one used in the analysis. For example, half were asked whether they support or oppose allowing transgender people to serve in the military, while the other half were asked whether they support or oppose banning transgender military service. 50% support allowing military service and 30% support a ban, so for this issue the data analyzed was based on the wording about allowing military service.

Here is where Americans stand on 20 policies that would affect rights and protections for transgender people. Americans are more likely to support than oppose six policies that expand rights and protections for transgender people and nine policies that restrict rights and protections. They are almost evenly divided on four other policies. (One other policy didn't fit into any of those categories: Both allowing and banning books in public schools with stories about transgender youth gets more opposition than support.)

Policies expanding rights and protections for transgender people that more Americans support than oppose

  • Including protections for transgender people in hate-crime laws (+36 net support, meaning the result of subtracting from the percentage who support it the percentage who oppose it)
  • Banning employers from firing employees on the basis of their transgender identity (+33)
  • Allowing transgender people to serve in the military (+22)
  • Banning conversion therapy for transgender youth (+14)
  • Requiring all new public buildings to include gender-neutral restrooms (+7)
  • Allowing government employees to use pronouns consistent with their gender identity (+6)

Policies restricting rights and protections for transgender people that more Americans support than oppose

  • Requiring transgender athletes to play on sports teams that match their sex assigned at birth (+31)
  • Requiring prisons to house transgender prisoners according to their sex assigned at birth (+21)
  • Banning people under the age of 18 from attending drag shows (+18)
  • Creating a law that defines gender as a person's sex assigned at birth (+16)
  • Banning transgender youth from accessing puberty blockers (+13)
  • Requiring transgender people to use bathrooms that match their sex assigned at birth (+12)
  • Banning transgender youth from accessing hormone therapy (+10)
  • Banning government insurance from covering the costs of gender-affirming surgeries and therapies (+9)
  • Banning public schools from including lessons on transgender issues (+6)

Policies affecting transgender people that Americans are divided on

  • Allowing private insurance companies to not cover the costs of gender-affirming surgeries and therapies (+3)
  • Banning transgender women from using women's refuges for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence (0)
  • Allowing transgender people to amend their gender identity on government-issued identification (-2)
  • Requiring public schools to refer to students only by pronouns that match their sex assigned at birth (-3)

Majorities of Democrats and Republicans agree with existing rules protecting transgender Americans from hate crimes and employment discrimination, but on most other issues, party divisions drive splits in opinion.

36% of Americans say societal acceptance of transgender people has gone too far, while 34% say it hasn't gone far enough, and 15% say it has been about right. This marks a 7-percentage-point increase in the share saying society has gone too far in its acceptance since we first posed the question in 2018.

Americans 30 and older are more likely than younger adults to believe society has gone too far in accepting transgender people (39% vs. 28%). Men also are more likely to say this than women (41% vs. 32%). People who don't personally know anyone who is transgender are more likely to believe society has gone too far in accepting transgender people than are people who do know a transgender person (41% vs. 28%).

See additional findings from our recent survey on transgender issues:

  • One in three Americans (33%) say they know someone who is transgender, including themselves, a family member, a close friend, or an acquaintance.
  • Most Americans (55%) believe that people across various cultures and time periods have felt as if they are a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth; 27% say it is a relatively new phenomenon.
  • More believe social (38%) than biological (26%) factors contribute to transgender identity; 17% say they equally contribute.
  • Large majorities of Americans believe that transgender people very or somewhat often experience disapproval from their families (75%), depression and anxiety (75%), and verbal harassment (71%). 55% believe they experience physical abuse at least somewhat often.
  • More people say that things for transgender Americans have improved (44%) in the past 10 years than worsened (20%) or stayed the same (18%).
  • Most don't expect life for transgender Americans to continue to improve, though: One year from now, just 22% say things will have improved compared to now, while 16% say things will be worse and 40% say they will be the same.
  • One in three Americans (33%) believe it is morally wrong to identify with a gender different from one's sex assigned at birth. 39% say it is morally wrong to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Opinions on both have remained relatively stable over the past decade.
  • More say they would be very or somewhat supportive than unsupportive if a close friend (54% would support), sibling (52%), colleague (51%), child (46%), or parent (40%) came out as transgender. Fewer (32%) would support a spouse coming out as transgender.
  • More believe it is definitely or probably true than false that most "medical professionals recognize gender dysphoria as a legitimate medical condition" (52% vs. 23%).
  • 45% say it is true that "most transgender adults first realized they were transgender during childhood"; 24% say it is false. 41% agree that "most children who say they are transgender eventually return to identifying with their sex assigned at birth;" 27% say it is false.
  • Americans have similar evaluations of Joe Biden's and Donald Trump's handling of transgender issues: 33% strongly or somewhat approve of Biden's handling while 31% approve of Trump's. For both, slightly more disapprove than approve and about one-third are unsure.


— Carl Bialik contributed to this article

See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: The poll was conducted among 2,000 U.S. adult citizens on two separate surveys from January 22 - 27, 2024 and January 23 - 26, 2024, with each survey taken by 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty (Drew Angerer)