A growing share of U.S. adults say they know someone who is transgender or goes by gender-neutral pronouns, a new Pew Research Center survey finds.
According to the study, which was released on Tuesday, 42% of Americans said they know someone who is transgender, up five percentage points since 2017. About a quarter of Americans surveyed also said they know someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, such as “they/them,” which increased eight percentage points since it was last surveyed in 2018, according to the findings.
The numbers on people’s comfort level of using gender-neutral pronouns are “virtually unchanged,” the study added. Half of Americans say they feel very or somewhat comfortable using gender-neutral pronouns, while 48% say they feel very or somewhat uncomfortable using them.
The findings come from Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP) where they survey over 10,000 U.S. adults from June 14 to 27.
“I think these topics are part of the national debate,” said Rachel Minkin, a research associate with Pew Research Center and co-author of the analysis. “We’re looking at how public opinion shifts or doesn’t shift, and we saw that some things have changed, certainly increases among those who knows someone personally who is transgender or who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, and some things have not.”
The study found that younger generations are more likely to know transgender people. For instance, 53% of people between the age of 18 and 29 said they know someone who is transgender, the largest percentage out of all the other age groups, compared to only 32% of those 65 and older.
Although a growing share of all adults — no matter their background — reported knowing someone who is transgender or uses gender-neutral pronouns, younger adults, Democrats and those with more education were more likely to report knowing someone, the report found.
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“We didn’t see large changes in public opinion on comfort or discomfort using gender neutral pronouns and opinions about whether gender is determined by sex assigned at birth or if it can be different from sex assigned at birth, but certainly there are a range of opinions on these questions in looking at age and partisanship,” Minkin said.
Meanwhile, a growing share of Americans said that they know someone using gender-neutral pronouns. According to the study, 46% of people ages 18 to 29 said they know someone using the pronouns, an increase of 14 percentage points since 2018.
In addition, 56% majority of adults younger than 30said someone’s gender can differ from their sex assigned at birth, the study found. Less than about 40% of people in the older age groups ages 30 and up supported the same statement, the study added.
The Pew Research Center study comes shortly after the Trevor Project released a study that found about 1 in 4 LGBTQ youths identify as nonbinary, or someone who does not identify within the traditional gender dichotomy.
“Nonbinary” refers to someone who does not identify only as a man or a woman, i.e., the traditional gender binary, according to the Human Rights Campaign. They could identify as both a man and a woman, in between the two genders, or not a part of any gender category at all. GLAAD offers a similar definition and recommends calling someone nonbinary only if they claim that identity themselves.
“Young people are using a variety of language to describe the nuances of their gender identity outside of the binary construction of gender,” Jonah DeChants, a Research Scientist for The Trevor Project, said in a news release.
“These data emphasize that, while there is certainly an overlap, youth understand ‘transgender’ and ‘nonbinary’ as distinct identity terms — and you cannot assume one’s identity simply based on the pronouns they use.”
Contributing: David Oliver, USA TODAY