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Where Asian Americans Stand on Transgender “Bathroom Bills”
Janelle Wong, Ph.D.,
05.19.2017

A recent PRRI report shows that while a majority of all Americans oppose “laws requiring that transgender people use bathrooms corresponding to their birth sex”, half (50 percent) of white evangelical Protestants favor these laws.

But, as PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones has noted in his book, The End of White Christian America, white evangelicals make up a shrinking proportion of the U.S. population. In contrast, the proportion of Asian Americans who identify as evangelical is growing. To what extent do new and growing groups of evangelicals, such as Asian Americans, compare to their white evangelical counterparts on these controversial issues?

New data from the 2016 National Asian American Post-Election Survey, which includes more than 4,000 Asian American respondents, allow us to answer this question. In the survey, Asian Americans were asked: “Do you favor or oppose allowing transgender people—that is, people who identify themselves as the sex or gender different from the one they were born as—to use the bathrooms of their identified gender.” Overall, a majority (58 percent) of Asian Americans favor allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of their choice, with 21 percent saying they oppose and 21 percent reporting they support neither answer. Support ranges from more than seven in ten Japanese (72 percent) and Indians (72 percent), to about half of Chinese (54 percent) and Koreans (47 percent), to 43 percent of Cambodians and 34 percent of Hmong. The groups most likely to oppose transgender bathroom rights are Koreans (43 percent) and Hmong (38 percent). These are two of the groups most likely to identify as evangelical Christians in the survey.

Overall, about 14 percent of Asian Americans identify as born-again, according to the NAAS. This means the survey sample is too small to break down by ethnic group. However, if we compare the overall group of Asian Americans who identify as evangelical in the survey to those who do not, we see that Asian American evangelicals are more likely to oppose allowing transgender people to use bathrooms of their choice (42 percent) than Asian Americans who do not identify as evangelical (17 percent). And, more evangelical Asian Americans say they are neutral toward or approve of transgender peoples’ rights to make their own bathroom choices than claim to be opposed.

While we cannot make direct comparisons to the PRRI report, a preliminary conclusion is that Asian Americans as a whole may be more moderate than the population overall and Asian American evangelicals are slightly more moderate than their white evangelical counterparts when it comes to extending rights to transgender people.

Janelle Wong is Professor of American Studies and Director of Asian American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park