Pew study: 5% of young adults identify as transgender or non-binary

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For years, advocates and policymakers have struggled to get an accurate picture of the number of transgender and non-binary adults living in the United States. The US census does not ask about gender identity, and so far few institutions have ventured to estimate that number.

Pew Research Center data released on Tuesday offers a clearer picture: About 1.6% of the US population identifies as trans or non-binary, the latter term being used to describe people who do not identify exclusively as male or female, according to the investigation.

The nationally representative survey found that young adults were most likely to identify this way. Among people under the age of 30, approximately 5% said they were trans or non-binary.

Pew published its findings accompanied by a detailed report about the “experiences, challenges, and hopes of transgender and non-binary American adults,” which relied on focus groups to help illuminate the lives and perspectives of a group that has become increasingly visible and accepted – as well as targeted and marginalized – during the last years.

Together, the survey and focus group results help clarify the share of the U.S. population that identifies as transgender and non-binary—which is higher than expected—and illustrates the diversity and complexity of a community that has long been the target of prejudice and misinformation.

“Advocates have known for some time that statisticians underestimate the number of trans people in the United States,” said Olivia Hunt, director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), a transgender rights group. trans people. Because of this, Hunt said, “we’ve had a lot of lawmakers and policymakers who have dismissed the needs of trans and non-binary people.”

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Data from Pew suggests that at least 5.3 million trans and non-binary people live in the United States, based on current census data. This is about twice as high as the number implied by two studies from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law: A 2016 survey estimated that 0.6% of American adults – about 1.4 million – identified as trans, and another in 2021 estimated that 1.2 million adults identify as non-binary. (The Pew researchers noted that the intent of their latest survey was not to calculate a specific total.)

According to Pew research, adults under 30 were more likely than older generations to identify with a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth: 5%, compared to 1.6% among 30 to 49 years old, and 0.3%% for adults over 50 years old.

Pew research associate Anna Brown noted that researchers classify people as trans if they say their sex is different from their sex assigned at birth, which means they cannot explicitly identify as transgender. , she said. The non-binary category included people who explicitly said they were non-binary, as well as people who used terms such as “agegender” or “genderfluid.”

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The survey didn’t address why rates might be higher in younger age groups, Brown said, “but one thing to note is that younger adults tend to be more familiar with the idea of ‘be non-binary’. They are also the only age group in which a majority of respondents – 52% – said they know a trans person.

The proportion of people who know a trans person has also increased significantly Over the past few years, the Pew survey found: In 2017, 37% of American adults said they knew a trans person. This rate is now 44%, with 42% Conservatives and 48% Liberals.

The data clarifies and confirms, Hunt said.

“Trans people are here to stay,” she said. “Our needs are real and must be met.

Hunt was particularly interested in the share of people who identify as non-binary – around 1% of American adults. This could have substantial policy implications for advocates and lawmakers, she said: For example, these numbers indicate a real need to have “X” gender markers on identification documents. It could also push policymakers to address the specific medical needs of non-binary adults and make the legal system more inclusive, she added.

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In April this year, the White House announced that all US citizens would be allowed to select an X gender marker on their passport applications and that the Transportation Security Administration would update its technology to reduce the need for pat-downs and screenings. extra for trans people and non-binary travellers.

Non-binary gender designations on identification documents, such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and state-issued IDs, are also available in 21 states and the District of Columbia. These gains have been made possible by the growing political and social visibility of trans and non-binary people, advocates say.

But they also became the target of a violent reaction and an unprecedented onslaught of anti-trans legislation, much of which has been directed at transgender children.

On Tuesday, Louisiana became the 18th state to ban transgender women and girls to play on women’s sports teams. Oklahoma passed three anti-trans bills this year, including one that bans non-binary gender markers on birth certificates. This year, Alabama enacted the most aggressive gender-affirming care ban in US history (it has been blocked in an ongoing legal challenge). And in Florida and Texas, state leaders have tried to restrict gender-affirming health care through administrative means.

Conservative lawmakers who introduced these bills say the policies are meant to protect children.

“A lot of different segments of the population have been talking about gender identity and the gender binary,” Brown said. That’s why recent Pew reporting via focus groups is especially valuable at a time when misinformation and bias are rampant, she said: “We were able to hear from people impacted by this conversation in their own words and delve deep into the issues.”

It’s not always easy for researchers, said Brown, who noted it’s difficult to get a large enough sample of trans and non-binary people in surveys to learn more about their views.

Discussion groups included a total of 27 trans and non-binary adults of varying ages and racial backgrounds from across the country, and highlighted the diversity and complexity of a group that has often been flattened or misunderstood.

While participants shared a range of experiences navigating their identities, most said they had known from a young age – some as early as preschool or elementary school – that something was different about them, “even if they didn’t have the words to describe what it was like,” the report said.

Participants also identified a number of political priorities, ranging from defending basic needs such as housing, jobs and health care to fighting the wave of anti-trans legislation.

Hunt of NCTE is encouraged by the increase in research. This summer, her organization plans to release its own survey of trans and non-binary Americans that will include even more detail, she said.

“It’s something that fills me with joy, to have my community seen,” said Hunt, who recalls growing up and feeling like “I was the only trans person there.”

Amid ongoing political and social attacks, Hunt also expressed pride in the number of people who come out as trans and non-binary.

“These are people who come out and be public because they won’t be intimidated,” Hunt said. “We are a part of society that is not going away.”


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