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A WaPo Poll Found That Significant Majorities Support Pro-Trans Policies, But Reported The Exact Opposite
Putting a giant "Most in U.S. back GOP's anti-trans policies" headline on the front page when describing a poll that found that to be false is journalistic malpractice.
Hey everyone, Parker here. It’s… a rough Monday.
Today’s newsletter was going to be about the frustratingly credulous profile the New York Times did about Elizabeth Holmes over the weekend (I might still write something about that in a premium-only piece later this week), but something more pressing came up.
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As many of you know, I’m transgender. As such, the way trans issues are covered in the mainstream press was/is/will continue to be extremely important and personal to me. Why? Well, most people don’t actually know any trans people, so their opinion on the issues that affect our lives tends to be shaped (more or less) entirely by what people see in the media. For that reason, I think it’s really important that these issues be framed in ways that acknowledge the humanity of trans people and our right to participate in society.
You have to start from that premise. I’m sorry, but yes, you have to.
You can have specific discussions about what hoops trans people need to jump through in order to do things like updating identifying documents, participating in elite-level sports, and so on, but you have to establish that the continued existence of trans people as part of society is not a question up for debate. I want to talk about something that really set me off this morning.
Take a look at the front page of this morning’s Washington Post:
“Most in U.S. back GOP’s anti-trans policies,” reads the headline of a piece by the Post’s Laura Meckler and Scott Clement. “Poll bolsters those seeking restrictions in schools, sports and health care,” continues the subheadline.
Yep. The front page. I was shocked to see this, as there hasn’t been a single poll I’ve seen that shows that “clear majorities of Americans support restrictions” on trans people’s lives. Here’s how it begins:
Clear majorities of Americans support restrictions affecting transgender children, a Washington Post-KFF poll finds, offering political jet fuel for Republicans in state legislatures and Congress who are pushing measures restricting curriculum, sports participation and medical care.
This frames the GOP’s anti-trans policies as being about “children,” but that’s just not the reality of what’s happening, and it’s worth being very clear about this: the “GOP’s anti-trans policies” are not just about trans minors. Many are, and they’re horrible policies, but that is by no means an accurate description of what the GOP is trying to do. Just look at Florida, which just last week passed a bill that effectively banned trans people from using public restrooms that match their gender identity at any building owned/leased/funded by the state government. Stadiums, airports, hospitals, schools, etc.
That’s not about “children.” It’s a ban on trans people of all ages. See also: Kansas and Arkansas, which passed their own version of this policy. And then there’s the matter of Missouri’s attorney general unilaterally imposing a policy that would force trans adults off hormone therapy and make transition-related health care near impossible to get. Oh, and don’t forget Montana, which just made it impossible for trans people to update their identifying documents at all.
These moves are aimed at pushing trans people out of public life, or as some on the right are calling it: the “eradication” of “transgenderism”
But hey, according to the front page of the Washington Post, this is what people support! Except that’s not at all what the Post’s own poll found!
First off, the poll was of 823 cisgender (non-trans) adults conducted between November 10 and December 1, 2022. And while the GOP was certainly ramping up its anti-trans efforts by then (see: all the panic over “fairness in women’s sports,” which I accurately pointed out wasn’t about sports at all, but an effort to grease the wheels of a larger push to strip trans people of our rights), but hadn’t yet (really) gotten into the return of “bathroom bills” and bans on adults accessing health care. So, right there, that’s a problem.
The next paragraph of the piece is actually unrelated to the topic at hand:
Most Americans don’t believe it’s even possible to be a gender that differs from that assigned at birth. A 57 percent majority of adults said a person’s gender is determined from the start, with 43 percent saying it can differ.
This is actually irrelevant to the question at hand, and including it in the lede of the piece demonstrates the bias of the authors. Whether someone believes rights should be taken away from a group doesn’t necessarily match with whether or not they’re fully on board with what people in that group believe. For instance, someone can say they don’t believe in Jesus being the actual son of God without that being interpreted as a belief that Christianity should be made illegal.
What’s most frustrating about this poll is that it actually seemed to find the opposite of what the authors claimed in the article.
Let’s look at what the poll actually found. Question 30: “Do you (support) or (oppose) laws prohibiting discrimination against trans people (INSERT TERMS)?”
Here’s what they found:
71% of adults support laws banning discrimination against trans people by medical professionals.
72% of adults support laws banning discrimination against trans people from getting health insurance.
69% of adults support laws banning discrimination against transgender people in K-12 schools.
73% of adults support laws banning discrimination against transgender people at colleges and universities.
73% of adults support laws banning discrimination against transgender people at their jobs and workplaces.
74% of adults support laws banning discrimination against transgender people in housing.
65% of adults support laws banning discrimination against transgender people in the U.S. military.
That was the only question that dealt with policy, and the overwhelming majority of people who responded said that they support laws protecting trans people from discrimination. Yet the Post’s framing landed the opposite conclusion.
The Post’s questions about trans minors weren’t about support for specific policies, and weren’t anywhere near as anti-trans as the Post framed them.
There are a handful of questions framed around personal beliefs, sure. “Do you think it is (appropriate) or (inappropriate) for teachers to discuss trans identity in public schools with students in (INSERT ITEM)?”
(77% said inappropriate in K-3, 70% said inappropriate in grades 4-5, 52% said inappropriate in grades 6-8, but just 36% said inappropriate for grades 9-12)
Note that this question didn’t ask if it should be the law to ban teachers from discussing “trans identity,” but just whether or not they personally believe it’s appropriate or inappropriate.
And let’s look at another question: “Do you (support) or (oppose) trans children between the ages of 10 and 14 having access to (ITEM) under medical supervision?”
While 68% of adults responded that they oppose access to puberty-blocking medication for trans youth between 10 and 14, only 37% of adults oppose access to “gender-affirming counseling or therapy.” 62% of adults support trans kids between the ages of 10 and 14 being able to access gender-affirming counseling/therapy, which is something that the GOP is trying to make illegal.
For that same question, but with ages 15-17 and “hormonal treatments” in place of “puberty-blocking medication,” just 33% of adults oppose allowing those teens to access gender-affirming counseling/therapy, and a slim majority (58%) oppose access to hormonal treatments.
The framing of these questions didn’t ask if the government should enact laws imposing their beliefs on the public. To frame it as such (which the piece and the headline did) is a lie, and a willful lie, at that.
Similarly, the polling on sports, a topic I’ve shared my own complicated feelings about before, doesn’t show support for laws that impose anti-trans policies. The poll question was about respondents’ individual beliefs.
Changes in public opinion on trans issues is driven almost entirely by how the media chooses to cover the topic.
I just want to live my goddamn life. That shouldn’t be too much to ask. Meanwhile, transphobic media outlets like the Post and the New York Times hammer away at trans people’s legitimacy. Over and over and over and over. It’s never-ending, and it’s driving me insane.
These outlets don’t have trans people on staff in the newsroom, as columnists, or on their editorial boards. Because they don’t see trans people as legitimate. (Again, it’s fine if you want to have a discussion about a specific policy, but if you cannot accept that trans people exist and are just as deserving as anyone else of a life where we can live in relative peace, then you’re not a journalist, you’re an anti-trans activist.)
The authors of that Washington Post piece — a piece that gleefully described their own poll (which, again, found that the majority of adults support legal protections for trans people in all areas of life) as “offering political jet fuel for Republicans in state legislatures and Congress” — have blood on their hands. The same is true for the many people who saw this before it went to print and decided to slap it on the front page of the paper: blood on their hands. Their goal is clear: to increase anti-trans sentiment among the public and to advance anti-trans policies. This isn’t new, but it’s time people started pushing back against this obvious anti-trans propaganda.
I’m sick of it all. I’m genuinely angry that I had to take the time today to write about this horrific crap. If there are any decent people at the Washington Post, maybe consider (at minimum) publicly pushing back on this propaganda. For now, though, screw the Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, Fred Ryan, Sally Buzbee, and every other person on the masthead. I’m sick of this. I’m sick of writing pieces like this. I’m sick of having to talk about trans issues at all.
Just leave us alone, you horrible people. We’re human beings.
Anyway, I hope to be back tomorrow with a newsletter that doesn’t deal with trans issues. Unfortunately, this seems to be something I need to keep writing about.