We know that LGBTQ rights are under attack from the Trump-Pence administration and Republican-dominated state legislatures. Even though Donald Trump said on the campaign trail that he would fight for LGBTQ rights, the reality has been… exactly what sensible people expected. He lied. He’s been the biggest threat to that community, going so far as to ban transgender people from serving in the military on nothing more than a cruel whim.
Yet while all this has been happening, Americans’ views of LGBTQ rights and transgender people specifically have changed dramatically, according to a new survey from PRRI.
In a report released today, PRRI finds that 62% of all Americans say their support for trans people has increased from just five years ago. Even among Republicans, more people than not have become more supportive of trans people. And among religious groups, it’s those of us “unaffiliated” with organized religion whose support for trans people has increased the most.
Keep in mind that these are all self-reported numbers. People are much more likely to say they’re accepting of a particular group — especially when asked about it for a survey — than actually show it through their actions.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about those results is how, for every religious group, there’s been more change in a pro-trans direction than not — even for white evangelicals. Then again, I wouldn’t rush to give them a lot of credit since those groups were so bigoted to begin with that there was really nowhere to go but up. (It’s hard to imagine white evangelicals could become more anti-trans than they were five years ago, but 37% of them say they’ve become even more bigoted.)
That idea of only being able to go in one direction can also be found when it comes to support for transgender people in the military: Compared to 2017, that support has gone down among Democrats — from 83% to 78% — and up for Republicans — from 37% to 47%. We’re still a long way from trans acceptance, even among Democrats, so the demonization of trans people by this administration maybe have siphoned away some support.
Support for bathroom bills — which allow trans people to use the correct bathroom in a public facility — has also increased over the past couple of years. People who either had no opinion or strongly opposed such bills have shifted their views to only kind of opposing it or favoring it. So while it’s true that a majority of Americans still oppose bathroom bills, there’s been a clear shift in the correct direction.
PRRI says white evangelicals are the only religious group in which a majority of people oppose bathroom bills. 59% of them want trans people to use bathrooms “that match their assigned sex at birth.” That is, the wrong ones.
Still, when you break the numbers down by religious group, just over the past year, there’s been a dramatic rise in support for non-discrimination laws — and non-religious people support them more than any other group.
Once again, we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s extremely hard to justify discrimination when you remove religion from the equation.
That doesn’t mean we should all pat ourselves on the back.
In fact, there’s obvious hypocrisy in the fact that 71% of Americans say they favor LGBTQ non-discrimination laws even though most Americans don’t support bathroom bills. Callie Wright of the podcast Queersplaining told me that discrepancy suggested “there’s not even a broad understanding of what issues are actually at stake in the debate.” The same principle applied when looking at the 55% of people who believe there are only two genders. Said Wright: “If your support for trans folks excludes non binary folks, that’s not really support.”
So Americans support trans people. But only some trans people. And only in certain areas.
If anything can change that, it may be a personal connection. The acceptance of trans people was much higher for those who know someone who is trans. That’s hardly a coincidence. Much as we saw with same-sex marriage and gay rights in general, knowing someone in the LGBTQ community is all-but-essential in changing your own perceptions. Americans who have a close friend or family member who’s trans are much more likely to believe gender isn’t binary — which is to say that if you know someone who’s trans, you’re more likely to accept the very existence of trans people.
These are dark times for LGBTQ people. But the public support for their rights are shifting in their favor. All we need are legislators who aren’t held back by religious hate in order to codify those protections into the law. Vote for Democrats, and that’ll happen even faster.
(Top image via Shutterstock)