If Bathroom Bills “Protect” Women, Why Do Women Support Transgender Rights?

More than half of American women believe trans people should use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

A new Gallup poll shines a light on how Americans feel about LGBT rights, from anti-discrimination laws to trans people being allowed to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

The poll, conducted the week of May 3, asked 1,011 respondents, “Do you think new civil rights laws are needed to reduce discrimination against LGBT people, or not?”

More than half (51%) said they did.

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About 60% of women supported advancing new laws protecting LGBT Americans, compared to 40% of men. Along party lines, that division breaks down to 67% of Democrats who support new legislation, compared to just 27% of people registered as Republicans.

Only 22 states currently prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. (For both, that number drops to 20.) Some 240 members of Congress have put their support behind the Equality Act, which would address employment, housing and other areans, but its chances of passing are slim with the GOP controlling both houses.

The data on bathrooms is somewhat less heartening.

Respondents were asked “In terms of policies governing public restrooms, do you think these policies should require transgender individuals to use the restroom that corresponds with their birth gender [or] allow transgender individuals to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity?”

In all, 48% of respondents claimed one’s gender assigned at birth should be the primary factor, while 45% supported recognizing a person’s gender identity. (Seven percent had no opinion.)

Gallup poll

Conservatives say “bathroom bills” are needed to protect women from predators who would claim to be transgender so they can barge into the ladies room with impunity. (A scenario that has never been reported.) But more than half of women (52%) believe Americans should be able to use facilities that match their identities, regardless of their birth gender.

It seems as if, once again, men are trying to tell women what’s best for them. (Not all men: 38% support using gender identity as the key factor.)

Gallup notes the issue “is a complicated one to poll on, as it is relatively new to Americans.” But the new report does show a positive shift from last year, when Americans were 10%s more likely to say birth gender should dictate public bathroom use.

With time, education and visibility, we’ll hopefully tilt those numbers further.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.