Poll Finds Immense Opposition to Anti-Trans Laws in Youth Sports, Health Care

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New polling shows that a majority of American adults strongly oppose proposed bills in several state legislatures across the country that would deny rights to transgender youth.

The PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll, conducted April 7-13, asked respondents a host of questions related to their support for cruel anti-trans legislation that would deny transgender children support or access to vital transition-related medical care or prohibit trans student athletes from being able to participate in sports teams that match their gender identity. A record-breaking 117 bills targeting trans people have been filed across dozens of states just this year.

Overwhelmingly, the polling data showed sharp opposition that transcended partisan views to such proposals.

Sixty-seven percent of American adults said they were opposed to measures prohibiting transgender students from being able to compete on sports teams corresponding to their gender identity, while only 28 percent saying they supported them. Among Democrats, 69 percent said they opposed the idea, and, despite the fact that the anti-trans legislation wave is led by Republican lawmakers, 66 percent of Republicans, too, said they were against the discriminatory bills.

On proposals to prohibit transition-related health care, which advocates say have been proven to improve the mental well-being of trans children, the numbers were similar. Sixty-six percent of poll respondents said they opposed such legislation, with only 28 percent in favor of the idea. Nearly 7 in 10 Democrats in the poll, as well as 7 in 10 Republican respondents, said they opposed those bills as well.

While the numbers above seem promising, they should be taken with a grain of salt, as other questions in the poll demonstrated most GOP voters still harbored anti-trans viewpoints, including believing that transgender students should be prohibited from sports, even if they disagreed with enshrining such rules legislatively. Such views appeared to affect the results of other questions in the poll.

When asked whether students should be allowed to play on sports teams that match their gender identities, 50 percent of all respondents said they should be able to do so in grade school (with 44 percent opposed), while 47 percent said high school trans students should be allowed to play on sports teams that correspond to their gender identity (versus 48 percent who said they should not be allowed).

There was a clear partisan divide among these questions. For instance, among Democrats, 76 percent said they supported transgender athletes in college being able to compete in sports corresponding to their gender identities, while only 19 percent of Republican respondents agreed. This could be due to anti-trans propaganda being spread by GOP leadership in their quest to demonize and harm trans people.

The bills being considered by state legislatures are outwardly cruel toward trans people. When trans youth are allowed to play on sports teams that correspond to their gender can provide tremendous benefits to their lives — yet only 16 states have policies that help facilitate trans students’ participation in school sports. As Brandon Boulware, the father of a transgender student in Missouri, noted in a now-viral video of him testifying against such restrictive proposals, his daughter was “absolutely miserable” when he and his family tried to deny her the ability to express her gender.

Speaking before a state legislative committee earlier this year, Boulware explained there was a complete turnaround in his daughter’s emotional health once he changed his views, and allowed his daughter to be herself. But if the legislation banning transgender youth from participating in sports teams corresponding with their gender in the state passes, Boulware warned, his daughter will no longer be allowed to participate in volleyball, dance squad, and other team sports, which would be detrimental to her mental health.

“I ask you, please don’t take that away from my daughter, or the countless others like her who are out there. Let them have their childhoods, let them be who they are,” Boulware said in his plea to lawmakers last month.

Beyond the anecdotal evidence that parents like Boulware and trans children have provided, there is also no scientific basis behind Republicans’ attempts to deny trans children the right to play sports. In an interview this year with NPR, Eric Vilain, a pediatrician and geneticist who studies sex differences in athletes and who has advised the NCAA and International Olympic Committee on the subject, roundly disputed any notions many transphobic legislators and hate groups have made about it being unfair to let transgender athletes compete.

“The question is…whether trans athletes are systematically winning all competitions,” he said. “The answer to this latter question, are trans athletes winning everything, is simple — that’s not the case.”

Beyond the world of sports, transition-related health care for transgender youth in general is also crucial, many studies have shown.

“The evidence confirms that providing youth with gender-affirming care is clinically sound,” states a recent article from the National Health Law Program (NHLP), an organization that “protects and advances health rights of low-income and underserved individuals and families.”

Noting that major medical organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics “support comprehensive care for transgender and gender-expansive youth and oppose efforts to ban their access to care,” the authors of the article further note that “delaying treatment can exacerbate symptoms and stressors, which exposes transgender and gender-expansive youth to high rates of bullying and trauma.”

State lawmakers should reject efforts to restrict health options for transgender kids, the NHLP added.

“Laws should not serve as a weapon to criminalize and discriminate against our transgender and gender-expansive youth by preventing access to the health services they need,” the NHLP authors concluded. “Instead, laws must preclude discrimination and support our youth and empower them to make decisions about their gender identity, including obtaining appropriate medical treatment that will allow them to live authentically.”

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