Americans have reported becoming increasingly supportive of transgender rights in general, yet more than 100 anti-transgender bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year. At the same time, Americans’ views are reflected at the federal level by the Pentagon’s policy changes supporting transgender people in the U.S. military.
According to a legislation tracker from Freedom for All Americans, a majority of anti-transgender bills have been introduced in the South and the Midwest. Yet PRRI’s April 2019 Survey shows that majorities across all U.S. regions have become more supportive of transgender rights. In 2019, more than six in ten Americans (62%) said that they were more supportive of transgender rights than they were five years ago. Notably, this question does not address the specifics of the bills introduced, but it highlights a disconnect between general views on transgender rights and the legislative cycles in some states.
Self-reported increases in support for transgender rights were only slightly more common in the Northeast (70%) than in the South (62%), West (60%), and Midwest (59%). Twelve anti-transgender bills have been introduced in the Texas state legislature this year. In 2019, nearly six in ten Texans (59%) said that they were more supportive of transgender rights, while nearly three in ten Texans (29%) said that they were less supportive. By contrast, no anti-transgender legislation has been introduced in California, yet in 2019 a similar proportion (62%) said they had become more supportive of transgender rights, while 29% said they had become less supportive. Data from PRRI’s 2020 American Values Atlas shows that at least three in four Texans (75%) and Californians (80%) support laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.
While younger generations of Americans are viewed as more progressive than those who are older, data shows that there are not large differences between the views of various age groups on transgender rights. Nearly seven in ten young adults ages 18–29 (68%) and more than six in ten adults ages 30–49 (62%) said that they had become more supportive of transgender rights over the last five years. Nearly two-thirds of middle-aged adults ages 50–64 (65%) and a majority of senior adults ages 65 and older (56%) also said that they had become more supportive. Around one in four young adults (23%), adults (24%), and middle-aged adults (25%) said they had become less supportive, and nearly three in ten seniors (27%) said the same.
Most of the states in which anti-transgender bills are common have Republican majorities in their legislatures, and indeed, larger differences in Americans’ opinions are evident by party. In the 2019 survey, nearly half of Republicans (47%) said that they had become more supportive of transgender rights in the last five years, while over one-third (36%) said that they were not. Nearly two-thirds of independents (64%) were more supportive in comparison to nearly one in four (23%) who became less favorable of transgender rights. Three in four Democrats (76%) said that they had become more supportive, while nearly one in five (17%) said they had become less supportive.
At the federal level, in early 2021, President Joe Biden instructed the Pentagon to implement policies that support transgender people serving in the military. These policies effectively ended a Trump administration ban on transgender people serving in the military.
In 2020, a majority of Americans (68%) favored allowing transgender people to serve in the military. This is similar to the 64% of Americans who also supported transgender military service when former president Donald Trump initially announced a ban in 2017. In both 2020 and 2017, three in ten Americans (29% and 30%, respectively) opposed allowing transgender people to serve in the military.
Transgender military service is also supported across U.S. regions. More than seven in ten Americans in the Northeast (72%) and the West (74%) and nearly two-thirds of those in the Midwest and the South (both 64%) favor transgender military service. There are also few differences by age. Nearly three in four young adults (73%) and adults ages 30–49 (72%) support transgender military service. Majorities of middle-aged Americans (64%) and seniors (60%) also favor it.
Again, partisanship is where differences emerge. Half of Republicans (50%) support allowing transgender people to serve in the military, while considerably larger majorities of independents (68%) and Democrats (81%) also favor allowing transgender people to serve. Nearly half of Republicans (48%), compared to three in ten independents (29%) and 15% of Democrats, oppose transgender military service.