Lawmakers across the country have recently proposed a number of bills that target the transgender community. The majority of these bills attempt to restrict transgender kids’ participation in school sports or ban transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming health care. These bills have given rise to a debate over transgender rights, a debate filled with misconceptions and lies. With this FAQ, we hope to clear up myths about the transgender community and explain the nuances of what's being discussed.
To learn how to take action to support transgender people, view HRC's Count Me In Campaign.
The reality is that tens of thousands of transgender and non-binary students have been playing sports for years without any unfair advantages or problems. Legislation designed to exclude transgender people, particularly women and girls, from participating in athletics has been rejected by educators, athletes, NCAA-trained facilitators, coaches, advocates for women and girls, and medical professionals. In fact, the Associated Press asked lawmakers who were seeking to pass these discriminatory bills to cite problem cases in their states and not a single lawmaker could identify a case.
That’s why “more than 500 college athletes signed a letter to the NCAA board of governors asking the organization to refuse to schedule championships in states that have banned transgender participation in sports.” But it’s also clear that equity in sports benefits transgender and non-transgender athletes alike. Sixteen states have had fully transgender-inclusive policies on the books, some for over a decade. In those states, girls sports has seen an increase in participation by cisgender girls (girls who aren’t transgender). In other words, things have gotten better for girls’ sports. Meanwhile, states with anti-transgender policies have seen things get worse for girls sports.
Some lawmakers cite a case in Connecticut, where an anti-transgender group filed a lawsuit on behalf of three non-transgender girl athletes who claimed racing against transgender athletes was unfair. However, within 10 days of the lawsuit being filed, one of the plaintiffs beat her transgender competitor twice in races for state titles. A federal judge later dismissed the case. The reality is that all female athletes -- transgender and non-transgender -- have different shapes and sizes, have different strengths and weaknesses. The research shows there’s no scientific reason to exclude transgender young people. Doing so can lead to immense harm in overall well-being by interrupting an activity crucial to identity and development.
Being transgender is not a trend. In fact, transgender people have a history that spans centuries and across all cultures. Even in the United States, there are records of transgender youth who lived almost a century ago. Over the past few years, transgender visibility has increased dramatically, a sign that our society is becoming increasingly accepting of diverse gender identities. This is a positive sign as more and more transgender people feel that they can live openly and receive support.
In fact, opponents of transgender inclusion grotesquely misrepresent the data from a recent Gallup survey to claim that young people assigned female at birth are more frequently identifying as transgender than lesbian. However, nothing about this survey proves that claim. Women often identify as gay, bisexual or another identity instead of lesbian. The way that opponents characterize the Gallup data, by suggesting that women can only be lesbians, does serious harm to the identities of young LGBTQ+ women and further reinforces the erasure of bisexual people. In fact, the Gallup data show that more young women identify as bisexual (4.3%) than lesbian (1.3%), and just as many women identify with another term (1.3%) compared to the term lesbian. Also, the transgender respondents were not separated by their assigned gender at birth. A high percentage of Gen-Z identifies as bisexual, and there is a higher percentage of Gen-Z women identifying as lesbian than there are Millenials, Gen X or Baby Boomers.
The idea that lesbian, gay and bi+ youth are being pressured to transition relies on bad-faith arguments by those who seek to divide the LGBTQ+ community. According to a recent study by GLSEN, transgender students experience even more hostility in school than non-transgender LGBQ students. Furthermore, according to the CDC, adolescents are still significantly more likely to identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual than as trans.
Like the LGBTQ+ community has seen time and time again, increased visibility often leads to increased attacks by those who wish to shove us back in the closet. Lesbian, gay and bi+ young people should be free to declare their sexuality without others doubting them. The same should be true for young people who have a diverse gender identity.
When a young child expresses that they are a gender other than their sex assigned at birth, their parents may support them in finding their own, unique identity. This can involve changing the child’s name, clothing or pronouns.
Once a transgender youth reaches puberty, a doctor may prescribe them with reversible puberty blockers to safely delay the effects of puberty. Puberty blockers are not “experimental” treatments, but FDA approved medications that have been used to treat precocious puberty in non-transgender children for several decades. Scientific studies demonstrate that access to puberty blockers reduces suicidal ideation and that parents’ affirmation of their child’s gender identity reduces rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide to levels consistent with their cisgender peers.
The World Professional Association of Transgender Health’s handbook, that doctors and clinicians use to socially, psychologically and medically treat transgender youth, states that irreversible genital surgeries should not be carried out until the individual is of legal age to consent to any procedure. This approach is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians.
Many transgender people regret not coming out when they were younger, and wish they had support from parents, schools and society to do so. When kids are allowed the freedom to safely express themselves, they are happier, healthier and grow into thriving adults.
Since 2013, HRC and other advocates have tracked over 200 cases of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people across 30 states and 113 cities nationwide. Beyond fatal violence, the transgender and non-binary community faces higher rates of harassment and physical assault -- including transgender young people, with 43% of transgender youth reporting being bullied in school.
Laws targeting transgender people -- and the political rhetoric surrounding anti-transgender bills -- send a message that transgender people are not worthy of equal treatment, contributing to dangerous stigma that drives this epidemic of violence.
Bottom line: when transgender people aren’t valued -- including by their own lawmakers -- their lives are viewed by some as disposable, putting them at risk.
Detransition is rare, and is often the result of environmental factors rather than regret. Detransitioning is often conflated with medical regret, but detransitioning can include nonmedical parts of someone’s transition such as changes in their gender expression or legal changes to their identity. Generally speaking, medical research shows that most patients do not actually regret their decision to undergo gender-affirming surgery and that it is only one aspect of their transition. For example, one specific study found that less than one-half of one percent of transgender patients who have received gonadectomy report surgical regret. Surgical regret can also include those disappointed with one or more minor details relating to the outcome of their surgery rather than regret receiving surgery.
Researchers at The Fenway Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital (Harvard Medical School) recently published the first rigorous study of the factors that drive transgender and gender diverse people to detransition. The study found that “13.1% of currently identified transgender people have detransitioned at some point in their lives, but that 82.5% of those who have detransitioned attribute their decision to at least one external factor such as pressure from family, non-affirming school environments, and increased vulnerability to violence, including sexual assault.” Data from the National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey shows that respondents who detransitioned cited a number of reasons for doing so, including facing too much harassment or discrimination after they began transitioning (31%), having trouble getting a job (29%), or pressure from a parent (36%), spouse (18%) or other family members (26%).
Transgender people are not new and they have been using facilities as restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity for decades without issue. Laws in 21 states and more than 170 cities and counties prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations such as restaurants, retail establishments, and hotels. There is no evidence that these laws lead to violence or undermine safety. That is why more than 300 domestic violence and sexual assault prevention organizations support full and equal inclusion of transgender people in facilities consistent with their gender identity.
Opponents of LGBTQ+ equality have admitted that their bathroom safety argument was contrived and not a real concern based on habits of actual predators. It is important to remember that anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups used similar “predator” stereotypes against gay people as recently as the nineties and early two-thousands. These ill-informed misbeliefs about gay people led to discriminatory laws such as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. During the Civil Rights era, segregationists used stereotypes about Black men being sexually predatory in order to oppose integration. These false arguments and stereotypes have simply been recycled to attack another marginalized group, transgender people.