Gender Is Determined at Birth, Say a Growing Number of Americans: Poll

The views of Americans over gender identity are getting more complex over time, despite the fact that a majority of people support transgender rights and laws protecting trans people from discrimination.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that more Americans believe that a person's gender is determined by the sex assigned at birth in 2022 than in 2021 and 2017.

The increase in the number of people who think someone's gender identity should reflect the sex assigned at birth is small but significant, having gone up from 56 percent in 2021 to 60 percent this year. Compared with the results from five years ago, the number of Americans who hold this belief has grown by six percentage points.

There's no single demographic group driving this increase, but unsurprisingly, Republicans and older people are much more likely to say gender should correspond to the sex assigned at birth than Democrats and younger adults.

The increase doesn't necessarily indicate a backlash against transgender and non-binary people from the majority of the American public.

Concern Over Discrimination

Eight in 10 adults across the political spectrum and in all age cohorts, according to the survey, believe that trans people are discriminated against in American society. A majority of the poll's respondents also said they support laws that would protect trans people from discrimination in jobs, housing and public spaces.

Half of the people who believe gender identity equals the sex assigned at birth do support laws that would protect trans people from being discriminated against in certain areas of society.

Of those saying that gender should reflect the sex assigned at birth, one in four believes forms and online profiles should include options other than "male" or "female" for people who don't identify as either. That shows more acceptance towards trans and non-binary people than their proclaimed belief on gender identity would suggest.

There's a meaningful age divide running along the gender debate, with younger adults leading the change in perspective toward trans and non-binary people.

While half of those aged between 18 and 29 believe people's gender identity can be different from the sex they were assigned at birth, only about four-in-10 people aged between 30 to 49 and about one-third of those aged 50 and older hold the same beliefs.

The most divisive factor appears to be political identity.

An overwhelming majority (86 percent) of Republicans believe gender is determined by the sex assigned at birth, compared with only 38 percent of Democrats. For conservative Republicans, this number goes up to 92 percent.

Republicans are also much more likely to say they don't see discrimination against trans people in society compared to Democrats, and more likely to believe society has gone too far in accepting trans people.

Other influencing factors are education levels and whether or not the respondent knows a trans person. The belief that gender is determined by the sex assigned at birth is more common among those with lower levels of education and those living in rural areas or in the Midwest or South, according to the survey, and it's more prevalent among men and Black Americans.

Knowing a Transgender Person

A majority of people who believe gender equals the sex assigned at birth don't know a trans person, while those who do are evenly split in their beliefs over what defines gender identity.

Most people said their view on gender identity had been influenced by "what they've learned from science," followed by religious views.

The debate around gender identity divides the American public. There's a split between those who say society "has gone too far" accepting trans rights (38 percent) and those who believe it has not nearly gone far enough (36 percent). One in four people sit in the middle, saying things are about right the way they are.

Many —more than four in 10— aren't comfortable with the speed at which views around gender identity are changing.

"The issue is so new to me I can't keep up. I don't know what to think about all of this new information. I'm baffled by so many changes," said one respondent.

Information is also a key issue, given that the survey shows 68 percent of respondents said "not at all" when asked if they followed news related to bills affecting trans people.

This year, GOP lawmakers have filed more than 200 state bills targeting trans and gay young people across the nation, eroding legislative protections to their rights, according to the Washington Post.

Florida's notorious "Don't Say Gay" bill is possibly the most prominent example of the GOP backlash against trans and LGBTQ+ rights. Another major setback in the recognition of trans rights was the swimming ban passed by FINA, the international governing body of swimming, this year, dictating that trans athletes can't compete in the women's division of elite swimming competitions if they transitioned after the age of 12.

Trans rights Gender
A growing number of Americans believe gender identity should reflect the sex assigned at birth, according to a survey. In this photo, a transgender athlete waves a Trans Pride Flag during the New York City Pride Parade on June 26, 2022 in New York City. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images