Gallup poll: American’s view on the rights of transgender people

June 28, 2021 • 11:30 am

I suspect that this new Gallup poll is evidence for an increase in morality—at least in the legality of transgender people serving in the American military. Although the month-old Gallup survey below shows a slight decrease in favoring that ability between 2019 and 2021, I’m betting that the “favoring” figures would have been much lower several decades ago.  This change in attitudes, if I’m right about what I just said, mirrors the increasing acceptance of gay people serving in the military, not to mention Americans’ increasing approval of the legality of gay marriages.

Click on the screenshot below to read:

Serving in the military (data below): Except for Republicans, most Americans favor openly transgender people being able to serve in the military. Liberals, of course, favor it more, and women more than men. As expected, the older one is, the less likely one is to favor military service of transgender people. Transitioning is largely a modern phenomena, and is increasing rapidly among the young.

The question is why in every group save Republicans the degree of favoring has gone down a bit in the last two years. I don’t understand why, but Gallup says that they have “routinely found shifts in public opinion, particularly among political independents, during presidential transition periods — as has been the case for approval of the Affordable Care Act and support for labor unions.” But if this decrease is a sour-grapes reaction to Trump’s defeat, why did the Republican figures remain unchanged while Democrats lost one percent and independents 12 percent? Gallup adds that this level of support is similar to that seen for gays and lesbians serving in the military between 2004 and 2010, before the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed.

Click on all screenshots to enlarge them.

Sports participation by transgender people. The data are below. Here the sentiment runs against transgender athletes being able to play on teams that match their gender identity and in favor of playing on teams that match their birth gender (they mean “birth sex” here), except among Democrats, who favor gender-identity participation by 55%. Again, older people tend to favor participation matching your birth sex, while Democrats and independents are more pro-transsexual participation than are Republicans—and the difference is large.

I think this question could have been asked in a better way, and in two senses:

a. Should transgender women be allowed to play on sports teams that match their current gender identity (i.e., women’s teams) rather than their birth sex?  After all, that is the big question. (You could also ask this for transgender men playing on men’s teams.)

b. Should medically untreated transgender women (or men) be allowed to play on sports that teams that match their current gender identity rather than their birth sex? (You could ask the same question for those who have undergone hormonal treatment and/or surgery. In terms of average strength, bone density, and muscle mass, untreated transsexual women should be expected to be similar to men.

Do you know someone who’s transgender? The data are below:

69% of American adults do not know someone who is transgender, but in the 18-29 age group, half of Americans do. That’s because transgender identity is a phenomenon increasing mostly in young people. The older you get, the less likely you are to know someone who’s transgender.

As for whether knowing someone changes your views, the answer is yes. As Gallup says:

Views on transgender athlete policies and right to serve openly in the military are slightly influenced by whether respondents personally know a transgender person. This is similar to what Gallup has found in the past about Americans who personally knew a gay person and their views on gay issues.

Those who know someone who is trans (40%) are more likely to say trans athletes should be able to play on a team of their gender identity than are people who do not know someone who is transgender (31%). Similarly, those who have a transgender person in their life (74%) are more supportive of transgender people’s right to openly serve in the military than are those who do not know someone who is trans (62%).

Given this, the age difference in whether one knows a transgender person predicts that, as time passes, there will be more sympathy for transgender issues, including the military and sports issues. Although the two-year data on military service shows a slight decline in support, I’m convinced that it will increase in the next decade.

And that’s as it should be, at least in my view. Society is better if people are given the chance to fulfill their hopes and dreams.

The sports question is a much thornier one, but ideologically-based reactions that don’t take physiology and sex differences into account may lead to an increase in support for unconditional favoring of transgender women to participate in women’s sports.

The lesson—an old one (see here)—is that if you know someone, you’re more likely to sympathize with their views and their identity. I would take this as militating against the increasing segregation of ethnic groups in colleges, like race-segregated dorms, euphemistically known as “affinity housing”. I think we should try mixing people up rather than separating them by ethnic, religious, or political affinity.

h/t: Enrico

19 thoughts on “Gallup poll: American’s view on the rights of transgender people

  1. The lesson—an old one (see here)—is that if you know someone, you’re more likely to sympathize with their views and their identity. I would take this as militating against the increasing segregation of ethnic groups in colleges, like race-segregated dorms, euphemistically known as “affinity housing”. I think we should try mixing people up rather than separating them by ethnic, religious, or political affinity.

    You damn tootin’. When the rope would come down separating the black audience from the white audience at those early rock’n’roll shows hosted by Alan Freed it did as much as anything to promote the cause of integration.

  2. They integrated the military before almost anywhere outside of the service but that was due to Truman and in a place that takes orders. The military has been far less friendly to gays or transgender integration. Treating women in the military as equals has been equally hard. I think finally after years of getting nowhere they are finally taking sexual harassment out of the chain of command and will maybe make some improvement.

    1. I agree that the military generally does what it is required to do. Resistance to integrating gays and Black people into the military was almost entirely a cultural thing. In those cases, the vast majority of those being integrated were able to meet all required standards, and needed no special accommodations.
      Women in the military is a bit different. Most jobs in any of the services are not much of an issue, as long as separate berthing is available.
      I have a hard time seeing a way that women can be integrated into ground combat units without serious loss of effectiveness. A great deal of your time in combat is about loading and unloading things, and digging holes. Lots of breaking down pallets of gear and provisions, when time really matters. Often those pallets are left by helicopters that want to get in and out fast, and sometimes the gear is inside the aircraft, which are not happy lingering there in the open.
      On the other side of that supply chain are bases slightly outside the active combat zone, where those same aircraft are loaded and unloaded with almost the same urgent time constraints as the forward landing zones. Those areas, at least the ones run by the USMC, are likely to be gender integrated. I have experience on both ends of that logistic chain. One unchanging fact was that women could not be expected to move that gear as fast as the men, or carry nearly as much. If they tried to keep up with the men, they were likely to hurt themselves. Especially when this sort of activity went on day after day, at all hours.
      Even in training, problems emerge. If you tell the Marines that each squad needs to have two women, they will make it work, as is their nature. What that means in a practical sense is that you will tend to see those squads, especially when running or marching with a combat load, having the men take turns humping the women’s gear. That has always been the standard way for the squad to complete the mission when one of the members has suffered some injury. Starting out with that liability leaves little room for error, and any Marine who has been carrying someone else’s gear in addition to his own will not be as effective as he would otherwise be.
      And privacy. There is none. In combat, one should expect to go through periods where every bodily function will be observed and probably be wisecracked about by your buddies. At a minimum, living like that in a mixed-sex unit would be distracting.
      Birds and bees. We are talking about kids in their 20s, working in isolated high-stress environments. Although pregnancy might seem the obvious problem, what seems to cause the most issues is drama. Even if nobody ever breaks the rules, tension and rivalries arise that would not otherwise be there, which again impacts unit cohesion. Women in the military, like women in private employment, have massively disproportional power over their male superiors these days with the possibility of harassment allegations. That does not exclude or minimize actual harassment, but the most junior female enlisted person has the power to have the most senior male NCO or officer removed from duty with a call to the phone number posted prominently and broadcast on AFRTS. I always classified that one with general drama, as a stress factor.
      I have absolutely no doubt that all of this has been carefully tested and quantified in military training research, the results carefully analyzed and documented, and the whole thing classified and locked away. Those predictions certainly include percentage loss of unit combat effectiveness, numbers of injuries per manhour worked, and of course predicted excess casualties.
      In the end, it comes down to why you have a military, and what their function is supposed to be. We don’t have mech suits yet, and combat will not always be about dropping smart bombs from high altitude onto people living in huts. We could, as we have in the past, face a well supplied, technically sophisticated enemy, where victory or defeat lies in the tiny margins of advantages in training or combat effectiveness.

  3. They only divided the results by political party affiliation, age, and by sex but I would be interested in seeing race/ethnic group approval information. I am under the impression (did I read this or hear this somewhere?) that in black and Latino communities, there is less acceptance but I am not for certain. Native American cultures, according to some very limited exploration I did back in uni as an anthropology minor suggested that prior to European contact, and more specifically prior to exposure wider American culture following WWII, acceptance of LGBT people was near universal. I believe the phrase I saw frequently was “it’s just their spirit”, meaning that’s just who they are and it wasn’t seen as an issue. That may be an oversimplification but as far as I can recall, it’s not far from the mark.

    1. All the data I’ve heard of say that the black population (USA) is less accepting of LGBT people.

      From what I’ve read, there does seem to be some more acceptance in, at least, the Plains Indians (Native Americans).

      But. IMO, there has been significant “whitewashing” of Native American behavior, especially with regard to: War, killing enemy tribe members, torture, stealing of wives, owning slaves, etc. From what I read from the woke left these days, all Native Americans were pacifists and non-violent (and probably vegans too).

  4. Someday maybe athletes of all genders will be free to compete with other members of their own sex. Oh, wait…

    What the Hell does gender, as opposed to sex, have to do with athletic competition again?

  5. This NYT article today

    includes a link to an announcement by Kumi Yokoyama, a female pro soccer player in the USA, who came out as a transgender man.

    It will be interesting to see whether Yokoyama decides to physiologically transition as well. NWSL has a detailed policy on transgender athletes. It’s mostly based on the World Athletics 10 nM serum testosterone concentration, and applies both to trans women (reducing below 10 nM) and to trans men (therapeutic testosterone must stay below 10 nM). Seems like a thoughtful policy, and probably works wrt trans men, although the 10 nM limit is kinda arbitrary and does nothing about the other physiological advantages of trans women.

    I celebrate this kind of openness and acceptance. But I also fear its costs. If trans women are women, and trans men are men, but both can compete in women’s athletics (e.g., on NWSL teams), where does this leave biological females who are women? As Sastra noted yesterday (?), once legal acceptance is in place for trans women and trans men in spaces that were designed for females (athletics, shelters) or in processes designed to promote the interests of females (in affirmative action hiring), it will become harder to do anything about the creeping erosion of the hard-won rights of biological females to avoid discrimination against them by men and by males.

    1. Naive question, but won’t they ask to play in the men’s team?

      I mean, continuing to play with the women would imply that there’s something real about biological sex, wouldn’t it?

      1. “I mean, continuing to play with the women would imply that there’s something real about biological sex, wouldn’t it?”

        Ha, yes, you’ve said the quiet part out loud.

        Could just be about money too: if a team has a female under contract who comes out as a trans man then the team keeps paying him and he keeps playing for his team.

  6. The lesson—an old one (see here)—is that if you know someone, you’re more likely to sympathize with their views and their identity.

    I think the transgender issue, however, is critically different than the gay one (or the racial minority one.) In the latter case, lack of support was fueled primarily by distaste, disgust, or the fear of difference. Getting to know real people helped the ‘phobic’ relate to gays and lesbians as similar to themselves. Same-sex attraction was relatively straightforward, and gay activism was focused on ending discrimination.

    Modern Transgender activism, however, promotes one particular theory (out of several) which involves redefining the fundamental meaning of what men and women are, minimizing or rejecting biology, and substituting gender in its place, which is knowable only to individuals themselves. The definition of “gender” shifts from stereotypes, to vague essences, to being another word for “sex.” These are sweeping ontological and epistemic changes which entail rejecting the rights of women as a sex class.

    Someone could be completely comfortable and sympathetic towards transgender people, enjoy their company, be fully in favor of their protection from housing and job discrimination — but rationally disagree with that one particular theory. That disagreement is considered a “phobia.” Phobics are supposed to be dangerously “filled with hate” and are treated accordingly.

    If the approval ratings of transgender people have been going down, I suspect it may be a combination of the public 1.) learning about the theory and realizing its implications 2.) seeing how dissent is dealt with.

    1. Gender has always been different from biological sex in societies. I can recall being called a “girl” in primary school because I took ballet lessons. I have met with this idea throughout my life that I am “not a man” even though I am biologically male.

      Ironically if I were to say “Fine, have it your own way, I am not a man” conservatives would get angry and insist that I am a man.

      If societies had not already had this socially constructed idea of gender then we probably wouldn’t have transgender people.

  7. RE transpeople in the military: I’m curious if there are any other military personnel who require injections twice a month? Would that not be a barrier to going into combat?

    1. I’d also be interested in a poll of women in the military. Most transwomen consider themselves lesbians, and are intact.

    2. A larger issue may be that a depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are over-represented in the trans community. Taking progesterone or testosterone can also lead to physical and emotional side effects.
      High stress environments will tend to magnify such issues.

  8. “A woman confronted the staff at the Wi Spa in Los Angeles after a man walked into the women’s section with his genitals hanging out in front of girls. He identified as a “woman.” The employees said he had a right to do that. The employees say that it’s the law. ”

  9. Link didn’t work for me, maybe taken down?

    The below link pretty comprehensive.

    I didn’t do an exhaustive search, but I did not see among the first 50 or so websites a website, which appeared liberal or progressive on the face of it, reporting this incident.

    s this another hill on which the ACLU’s Chase Strangio is willing to die?

  10. “The sports question is a much thornier one” – has no one considered the consequences of a smaller, lighter female being hit, kicked, bumped, crushed by a larger, heavier transgender female in sporting action? Transgender females should not be allowed to play in girls/women’s leagues, unless their bone density, muscle mass, weight and height are within the range of the other players in that league (tallest to smallest, heaviest to lightest, thickest to thinnest “real”/born girls/women). That would be fair.

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