New Poll Shows Majority Support for Trans Troops — Not so Much for Trans Athletes

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday May 27, 2021

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A new poll from Gallup shows that a solid majority of Americans support transgender troops right along with cisgender service members, but a similar majority says trans athletes should not compete on teams that match their gender identity, NBC News reports.

Per the outlet, "The annual Values and Beliefs survey — conducted May 3-18 by telephone interviews with 1,016 randomly selected adults living in the U.S. — found that 66 percent of people favor allowing openly trans people to serve in the military, though Gallup noted that this figure is down slightly from its previous measure in 2019, when 71 percent were in favor.

"At the same time, 62 percent of Americans say trans athletes should only be allowed to play on sports teams that correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth, while 34 percent say they should be able to play on teams that match their gender identity."

National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling told NBC News that the polling data was directly tied to a record-breaking wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation in a number of states that disproportionately target transgender youth.

"So far, governors in eight states have signed laws or executive orders restricting trans student athlete participation — seven of them in 2021," NBC News noted.

"What people are reacting to here is just an absolute barrage orchestrated by the extremist anti-LGBT groups," said Keisling, adding that the organizations in question are "the same ones who, in 2004, caused there to be a bunch of marriage equality losses around the states."

Gallup's own commentary on the data interprets the results as being "more of an issue of competitive fairness than of civil rights."

"Keisling said that as people know more about the issue, and know more trans people, public opinion will change. And Gallup data suggests that might be true," as per NBC News, referencing Gallup's finding that younger Americans are far more likely to know a trans person and that "those who know someone who is trans (40%) are more likely to say trans athletes should be able to play on a team of their gender identity," whereas "those who have a transgender person in their life (74%) are more supportive of transgender people's right to openly serve in the military."

While there has been some softening of approval rates for transgender service members, Gallup noted in its analysis that it "has routinely found shifts in public opinion, particularly among political independents, during presidential transition periods — as has been the case for approval of the Affordable Care Act and support for labor unions."

NBC News also recalled that the previous president's Twitter-announced ban on trans troops had been reversed by President Joe Biden.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.