A Third of Americans Say Society Has ‘Gone Too Far’ in Accepting Transgender People

The American public is fundamentally divided on whether people can be a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth—and whether transgender people deserve to use the bathroom of their choice, hold public office or serve in the military.

Over the past month, there were victories for the transgender community on all three of those counts. The man who wrote a bill to keep transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice in Virginia lost to a transgender woman in Tuesday’s election. And on October 30, 2017, a U.S. court blocked President Donald Trump’s attempt to change the military’s transgender policy, allowing transgender servicemen and -women to continue serving.

Still, there is a hard battle ahead for transgender activists. A new study out of the Pew Research Center shows that about a third of Americans still believe society has “gone too far” in accepting transgender people, even though 40 percent of the country knows someone who identifies as transgender.

Unsurprisingly, the link between knowing someone who is transgender and saying society should be more accepting of them is blatant. Among Republicans, twice as many people who know a transgender person say society hasn’t gone far enough in accepting transgender people, and Democrats are similar: 71 percent of Democrats who know someone who is transgender say society hasn’t gone far enough in accepting them, versus 52 percent of Democrats who don’t, according to the Pew study. Democrats are more likely to know someone who is transgender than Republicans.

Of course, partisanship is at play here. The majority of Republicans say society has gone too far in accepting transgender people. Twelve percent of Democrats say the same. Conversely, according to the Pew study, the majority of Democrats say society hasn’t gone far enough in accepting transgender people, compared with just 12 percent of Republicans who say the same.

And that goes further than if transgender people are being accepted enough in American society. Some people don’t even think their struggles are real. In fact, about 80 percent of Republicans don’t think someone actually can be transgender—they say someone’s gender is determined by their assigned sex at birth. And 64 percent of Democrats say they believe that someone's gender can be different than their sex assigned at birth. Beyond the new victories in the past month for transgender people, activists say this study shows there are still battles to fight in their visibility and acceptance.