. (ronniechua/Adobe Stock)
COLUMBUS, Ohio - In the ongoing battle for transgender rights in Ohio and across the country, researchers have some new insights into how the public perceives transgender people.
In a survey conducted by sociologist Natasha Quadlin of Ohio State University, and researchers from Indiana and Maryland, 4,000 adults were asked to classify the sex of transgender people.
Quadlin says the respondents were more likely to view a transgender person as the gender he or she was at birth, rather than the gender that person identifies as.
However, that view changed if the person "passes" as the gender with which he or she identifies.
"We found that the way the person looks or the physical appearance is the most important thing that really shapes people's attitudes," Quadlin points out. "So there is a big difference in the way that transgender people personally identify and the way that society would prefer that those people really be labeled and treated."
Quadlin says the findings are contrary to a popular argument used to restrict transgender rights, which is that identity should be based on biology, not physical appearance.
She notes those views could make some transgender people feel pressured that they have to "pass" as the gender they prefer in order to be accepted.
The survey results also showed women are more supportive and open about transgender people than are men, which runs contrary to the opinion of the "bathroom debate," that women would be most uncomfortable using a restroom with a transgender individual.
Quadlin says researchers found that contact with a transgender individual impacts attitudes.
"If a person knew someone who was transgender they were much more likely to perceive a transgender person as consistent with their own gender identity," she explains. "They were more likely to accept that person's own conceptualization of how they identify."
Quadlin says it will be important to continue to follow these trends because when people resist a person's gender identity, they're also more likely to say it's OK to discriminate against that person in an employment situation or to deny service to him or her.
"These attitudes about gender identity and about discrimination are really linked, and so it's going to be important in shaping public attitudes toward discrimination in other areas, not just sex and gender but then these broader issues that affect people's everyday lives," she states.
President Donald Trump has made several moves to undermine transgender rights, including removing Title IX protections from transgender youths, and blocking transgender people from openly serving in the military.