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Americans increasingly supportive of transgender people, surveys show

(Editor's note: This article includes content provided by the Public Religion Research Institute.)

SAN DIEGO – This may be the year that transgender people should stand tall.

This fall on “Dancing With The Stars,” Chaz Bono put a celebrity face on transgender issues as he competed for the coveted disco ball. Although Chaz recently was voted off the show by viewers, he won over millions of people with his broad smile and warm personality. Cher was rightfully proud.

Here in San Diego, transgender bodybuilder Chris Tina Bruce, who writes the Trans Fit column for SDGLN, made history as the first transgender person to compete in a nationally sponsored bodybuilding competition. Chris Tina also become the first person to have ever competed in both gender categories in bodybuilding; she first competed as a male nearly 20 years ago, and last weekend competed as a female.

Transgender people like Chaz and Chris Tina are putting human faces on the hurdles that they face in life, and they are proving to be great role models.

Surveys show strong support for transgender Americans

On Thursday, two new national surveys show that strong majorities of Americans favor rights and legal protections for transgender people and have a solid understanding of trans identity.

The “Religion and Politics Tracking Surveys” were conducted in August and September by Public Religion Research Institute. The combined surveys are among the first independent studies of attitudes on transgender issues and Americans’ knowledge of transgender identity.

"Three out of four Americans say Congress should pass employment nondiscrimination laws that protect transgender people," said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. "This strong support is also broad, persisting across party lines and the religious spectrum."

About three-quarters (74%) of Americans favor Congress’ recent expansion of hate crimes legislation to protect transgender people.

Additionally, the survey found that roughly two-thirds of Americans both report being well informed about transgender people and issues, and generally understand what the term “transgender” means, the new survey finds.

“To explore whether Americans know what the term ‘transgender’ means, we allowed them to define ‘transgender’ in their own words,” said Daniel Cox, the institute’s research director. “More than two-thirds of Americans were able to give an essentially accurate definition of the term ‘transgender’ without any assistance.”

Among the findings

Overwhelming majorities of Americans agree that transgender people should have the same general rights and legal protections as others.

• About 9 in 10 (89%) Americans — including strong majorities of all religious and partisan groups — say that transgender people deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans.

About three-quarters of Americans both say Congress should pass employment nondiscrimination laws to protect transgender people, and favor Congress’s recent expansion of hate crimes legislation to protect transgender people.

• Three-quarters (75%) of Americans agree that Congress should pass laws to protect transgender people from job discrimination. This support persists across the political and religious spectrum.

• About three-quarters (74%) of Americans also favor Congress’ recent expansion of federal hate crime laws to include crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, compared to only 22% who oppose.

About two-thirds of Americans both report being well informed about transgender people and issues, and generally understand what the term “transgender” means.

• Two-thirds of Americans agree that they feel well informed about transgender persons and issues, while 3 in 10 disagree.

• In order to determine whether Americans understood the term “transgender,” PRRI conducted a follow-up survey in September 2011 that asked respondents to report what the term “transgender” meant to them in their own words. Among the 91% of Americans who report that they have heard of the term transgender, 76% give an essentially accurate definition. Thus, overall, more than two-thirds (69%) of Americans are able to identify what the term “transgender” means without any assistance.

To read the topline questionnaire and survey methodology, click HERE.

Further reading

Discrimination is pervasive against transgender Americans, groundbreaking study finds

Black transgender people face startling levels of discrimination, report finds.