FiveThirtyEight's anti-trans smear
A piece published last week relying on extraordinarily flimsy polling evidence serves a single, obvious purpose: to push Democrats to be more anti-trans.
Last week, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website published a piece from Natalie Jackson, a research director with the Public Religion Research Institute, about Americans’ support for LGBTQ rights. Headlined, “Americans’ Support For LGBTQ Rights Often Stops With Transgender Rights,” the story makes the case that while the public generally supports LGBTQ rights, they’d also be open to adopting policies that would limit the rights of trans people to function as members of society. This is all framed as perfectly reasonable.
Jackson begins by noting that “support for same-sex marriage has doubled since the late 1990s. And laws intended to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing garners the support of about 8 in 10 Americans, including majorities of Republicans and white evangelicals.” Okay, great! So what’s the problem? Here’s where her piece starts to falter a bit.
Here’s where she starts to get into the “stops with transgender rights” aspect of things:
At the same time, however, policies curbing certain aspects of LGBTQ rights — particularly those pertaining to transgender people — have gained traction in state legislatures across the nation. A number of states have already implemented policies affecting transgender Americans, and more states are introducing similar measures. And despite widespread support for general nondiscrimination policies, many Americans actually do support restricting rights for transgender people.
For example, the Public Religion Research Institute, where I’m the research director, found last year that 47 percent of Americans favored “bathroom bills” that would require transgender people to use the bathroom of their sex assigned at birth, not their gender identity. Meanwhile, 52 percent of Americans said they were opposed to transgender boys’ participating in high school sports for their gender identity; 61 percent said the same of transgender girls.
She’s right that efforts to enact anti-trans policies have “gained traction in state legislatures across the nation,” and euphemistically says that “a number of states have already implemented policies affecting transgender Americans” (it’s definitely more than just “affecting” trans people, it’s limiting trans people’s ability to participate in society). Let’s set aside the topic of trans athletes for a second, as that’s a bit of a red herring (it’s a nuanced issue that I’ve tried to write about in a thoughtful way before), and instead, look at this argument about so-called “bathroom bills.”
Let’s start with the basics: “bathroom bills” are extreme.
Here’s where I start to have issues with Jackson’s conclusions. Let’s look at “bathroom bills,” which Jackson define as proposals that “require transgender people to use the bathroom of their sex assigned at birth.”
Here’s what a bill like this would actually mean in practice and who these policies would hurt.
So much anti-trans policy is based on the idea that trans people are immediately identifiable as such1 (and that people who are cisgender — or simply, not transgender — are also easily identifiable as such). However, we’ve seen what happens when governments start to put trans people in their crosshairs, and it’s not good for, well… pretty much anyone (except the anti-trans people pushing these policies).
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