When it comes to accepting the fact that transgender people are people, atheists and agnostics lead the way, according to a new analysis from the Pew Research Center.
Researchers asked whether a person’s gender is determined at birth. While 84% of white evangelicals wrongly agreed with the statement, the number dropped sharply to 29% for atheists and agnostics. (It was 37% overall for religious “Nones.”)
Most Christians in the United States (63%) say that whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by their sex at birth. Among religious “nones” — those who identify religiously as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” — about six-in-ten (62%) say they think a person’s gender is not necessarily determined by the sex they are assigned at birth.
To be sure, saying that only 29% of us reject the idea that someone can be transgender is nothing to celebrate. The number should be much, much lower. To be in that group means categorically denying everything trans people have ever said about their gender. It also means falling into the trap of saying people choose to be a man or a woman. That sentiment was wrong when it came to gays and lesbians and their sexual orientations, and it’s wrong now when talking about gender identity.
Pew also had numbers for the percentage of people who say they personally know someone who’s transgender. It won’t surprise you to learn that 50% of atheists/agnostics know a trans person, compared to only 25% of white evangelicals who say the same.
That, to me, just underscores the importance of trans people who have the courage and ability to come out. When you know people who are trans, it makes it that much harder to demonize them. That rule applies to just about every minority group, whether we’re talking about the color of your skin, your religious beliefs, or your sexual orientation.
We have a long way to go before being trans is accepted by society, rather than dismissed as some sort of mental illness, but I have no doubt that these numbers will move in the right direction in the years to come.
And atheists will be leading the way.