Most Americans say transgender women and girls should not be allowed to compete in women’s sports, according to a recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.
About 3 in 10 said that transgender women should be allowed to compete against other women, although there was slightly more support in youth sports compared to college and professional sports.
What the poll said: Less than half of respondents, 49%, said transgender girls should be barred from participating in youth sports against other girls. That number increased to 55% in high school sports and 58% at the collegiate and professional level.
- The poll also found that 68% of Americans say transgender girls would have a competitive advantage over their cisgender peers, according to The Washington Post.
- 52% of respondents said they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned that transgender girls will suffer in terms of mental health if they aren’t allowed to compete with other girls.
Although the questions were worded differently, the Post’s findings seem to be in line with attitudes in Utah. A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll in April found that 54% of Utahns support a recently passed law that prohibits transgender girls from competing in high school women’s sports.
A recent survey by Pew Research Center found that 0.6% of all U.S. adults identify as transgender, and 2% of those ages 18-29 say their gender is different from their sex assigned at birth.
Last week, Louisiana banned transgender women and girls from competing in female sports, becoming the 17th state to enact such a policy.
Is there a competitive advantage? In March, the Utah Legislature passed a bill banning transgender athletes from participating in girls sports. Supporters of the bill said it is designed to protect female athletes.
Transgender individuals make up a small percentage of the general population and an even smaller share of competitive athletes. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox — who vetoed the Legislature’s bill, only to have lawmakers overturn the veto — pointed out at the time that only one transgender high school student played girls sports in the state.
U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Chairwoman Susanne Lyons told the Deseret News in March that Utah’s ban takes a “very kind of black-and-white view,” on transgender participation in sports.
“That doesn’t necessarily look at the nuances of, is that talking about youth who have not yet been through puberty? Is that talking about recreational, intramural type sports? Or is that talking about elite sport,” Lyons said, adding that defining what constitutes an unfair advantage is amorphous and subjective.
Lyons said she understands the progress made by female athletes, and described a “really complex situation” in balancing transgender rights to participate while keeping women’s sports competitive.
Changing attitudes: The Washington Post poll found that more Americans say acceptance of transgender people is good rather than bad for society, and the number of respondents who say acceptance of trans individuals is bad for society is down 7% from a similar Pew Research Center poll last year.
A growing number of Americans personally know someone who is transgender, including 16% who say they have a close friend or family member who is transgender. According to The Washington Post, transgender acceptance could continue to increase along with visibility.
“A long line of research shows that knowing members of a particular group leads to more positive attitudes toward the group,” said Michael Hanmer, research director at University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement, which partnered on the poll. “We see that here, as there is a large increase in the proportion who say greater acceptance is good for society among those who personally know a transgender person.”