Republicans have absolutely made anti-trans messages their latest rallying cry, but that doesn’t mean all conservatives are quite as hateful as they’re making themselves out to be. At least, that’s the case when it comes to voters, if not legislators. According to The 19th, new polling suggests that Republicans are more conflicted about whether the government should bar trans youth from accessing safe, age-appropriate, lifesaving gender-affirming health care than we might assume based on what their elected officials are spewing.
Data for Progress, a national polling data firm, shared exclusive data with The 19th on this topic. According to the outlet, polling occurred between Feb. 25 and Feb. 27 and included more than 1,160 likely voters. The polling happened online and has a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. The biggest takeaway is that more Republican respondents actually agreed that gender-affirming care decisions should be made between patients and physicians without government involvement, coming in at 46%. Another 43% did say they feel the government should step in to prevent that care from being accessed, and 11% said they weren’t sure. So not a won battle, but still more reasonable and room for hope than Republicans in office want us to think.
RELATED: Texas families say they're already being investigated over their openly trans kids
According to the outlet, more than 40% of respondents said they live in a suburban area, almost one-third said they live in a rural area, and about 28% said they live in an urban area.
Unfortunately, most Republican respondents did say they agree with the recent terrifying move to come out of Texas, in which Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has directed state agencies to investigate families who support trans youth in seeking gender-affirming care. This directive includes pushing mandatory reporters like physicians, school counselors, and teachers, to report instances of trans youth receiving such care to the state. Almost 60% of respondents said they support (either strongly or somewhat) the state investigating these families. On the flip side, about one-third of Republican respondents said they oppose it, either strongly or somewhat.
In contrast, Democrats came in at 78% opposing government intervention in decisions about gender-affirming care for trans youth. Of independents, 66% also opposed it. Sixty-eight percent of Democrats oppose Abbott’s latest directive, as well as 54% of independents.
What could be behind these numbers? Unfortunately, there’s a lot of ignorance about what gender-affirming health care actually is and a lot of fearmongering about trans people in general. As Daily Kos recently covered, trans folks (and queer people in general) are often still regarded as predatory, groomers, or otherwise inappropriate or unsafe around children.
There’s a long, nasty history of implying or outright arguing that LGBTQ+ people essentially have a mental illness and are innately unsafe around kids, or that they’re only discussing their lives or identities to recruit young people. It wouldn’t be surprising if even some progressives or allies still hold onto these discriminatory views on a subliminal level, which then makes it all the easier to say, “Hey, maybe this does deserve closer monitoring …”
Education really is key here. While ignorance doesn’t come from a bad place, it is dangerous. It’s all too easy to believe Republican fearmongering and hysteria that paints an incorrect, inaccurate picture of young children getting invasive surgeries at the snap of their fingers. That simply isn’t happening, but it’s understandable that so many people get swept up in the rhetoric and start to believe it.
Privilege also has a big role here. For folks who have never had an identity or situation that necessitated intervention from a state agency, it can be easy to trick yourself into thinking such a situation isn’t a big deal. Similar to telling people who worry about a surveillance or policing state that you’re fine if you have “nothing to hide,” some people will argue that having someone check in on your home and family is not a problem if you’re a good parent.
In reality, these (in this case, unwarranted) check-ins can cause huge emotional stress and anguish on both the parents and the children and can open innocent people up to ongoing harm. Think, for example, about implicit bias and the way a social worker may see a white, wealthy family very differently than they may see a family of color or a low-income family. Much like the latest anti-abortion bounty efforts, even having this government intervention as an option reinforces the idea that being trans is somehow bad, shameful, and intervention-worthy. Trans youth face higher rates of bullying, harassment, and even homelessness as it is—those who are lucky enough to access gender-affirming care to begin with don’t need all of this added stress. And they especially don’t need to be taken from their supportive homes.
What can be done? In addition to combatting voter suppression and disenfranchisement, we need to be vigilant about tackling anti-trans rhetoric and misinformation, and that includes educating ourselves. What topics would you be interested in reading more about here at Daily Kos? Are there particular questions or framings that you find yourself getting stuck on? I’ll be checking the comments so please feel free to share all (good faith) suggestions!