Commentary: Survey Finds Anti-LGBTQ+ and Anti-Trans Policies and Rhetoric Harmful to Vulnerable Communities

ACLU Challenges Anti-Trans Law in Ohio

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

A new report from Data for Progress —which surveyed nearly 900 LGBTQ+ adults, including an oversample of transgender adults—found perhaps not surprisingly that anti-LGBTQ+ policies and rhetoric are harming their lives.

We keep hearing from people that this is a battle is about protecting youth and yet, the other day, a visible leader clearly criticized an adult’s choice to transition.

The report notes that in a 2023 Gallup Poll, roughly 7.6 percent of adults now identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or some other sexual orientation besides heterosexual.

However, “this increase in LGBTQ+ visibility has also been met with a political backlash.”

Over the last several years, mainly Republican lawmakers and legislatures have “advanced a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills” across the country.

Many of them target “transgender and nonbinary people and seek to regulate nearly every aspect of their lives — from access to health care and bathrooms to the ability to play sports and change their legal documents to reflect their gender identity.”

In addition, “Other policies seek to censor LGBTQ+ topics in the classroom, out LGBTQ+ students to their parents, roll back protections against anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and conversion therapy, and rigidly define sex as only male and female in legal codes.”

This year alone, the report notes, “nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures nationwide.”

That’s the backdrop.

One of the questions I keep asking local activists is whether anything that they are doing is making their lives better.

But what is clear from this survey is what they are doing is making countless people’s lives worse, and many of them are adults who were already vulnerable.

The Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States for the first time in September 2023, citing “an unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults sweeping state houses this year.”

Data For Progress found “70% of LGBTQ+ adults, including 85% of transgender adults, agree that LGBTQ+ Americans are facing a national state of emergency.”

For one third of all LGBTQ+ and two-thirds of transgender adults, they believe “quality of life has gotten worse for LGBTQ+ Americans in the past year.”

A majority of all LGBTQ+ adults and 79 percent of transgender adults believe “recent anti-LGBTQ+ policies and rhetoric have negatively impacted their mental health.”

That includes 65 percent of those adults between ages 18 and 24.

The survey also found, “More than 60% of transgender adults say they are concerned the following actions would result in LGBTQ+ discrimination or harassment: going to a new health care provider to receive care (73%), using a public bathroom (68%), going to non-LGBTQ+ bars or nightclubs (64%), and engaging in public displays of affection with their significant other (62%).”

In addition, 44 percent of “transgender adults say that they have considered moving or already moved out of their community or state as a result of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.”

The rhetoric has also resulted in cyberbullying and harassment online.

We have seen, even this week, the tactic of naming and screenshotting people and posting it on social media as a form of shaming or criticism, which could be labeled harassment or cyberbullying.

These reactions are likely to have profound impacts on both medical and mental health access and care.

For instance, one in four say “their access to gender-affirming medical care has been interrupted or discontinued” while 20 percent say “they did not feel safe going to the doctor or hospital when they were sick or injured out of fear of discrimination or mistreatment.”

Although many states—predominantly ones with Republican governors and legislatures—have introduced and passed a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the last few years, while several states with Democratic control have worked to pass pro-LGBTQ+ policies.

More than a dozen states have enacted “shield laws” that protect transgender people’s access to gender-affirming medical care—that includes California.

The survey finds that more than 3 in 4 LGBTQ+ adults say they would prefer to:

  • Live in cities or states that have passed pro-LGBTQ+ policies and nondiscrimination protections (82%)
  • Work at a company that has stated policies protecting its LGBTQ+ workers (86%)
  • Buy from brands that have publicly supported the LGBTQ+ community (76%)

The survey concludes: “This report highlights many of the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ adults across the country, especially as a result of recent anti-LGBTQ+ policies and rhetoric. It also underscores the disparities in reported negative experiences between transgender adults and LGBQ+ adults who do not identify as transgender. Furthermore, this report emphasizes the importance of LGBTQ+-affirming communities, policies, representation in media, and online spaces and resources for LGBTQ+ people.”

This week Sacramento became a sanctuary city for transgender people.  And while the resolution is largely a statement of values by the city council, and it does not have legal force of an ordinance, the survey shows how important it is for the mental health of transgender and LGBTQ+ people to live in supportive communities.

In the meantime, this is another reminder that the policies being advocated by some in the community are causing a good deal of anxiety and harm to a very vulnerable population.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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