Attitudes toward Transgender Rights: Perceived Knowledge and Secondary Interpersonal Contact

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Attitudes-Transgender-Rights-USA-September-2015.pdf

Transgender people face an uncertain legal climate, and efforts to include gender identity
in policies have been met with both successes and failures. These policies are often developed in the
legislative process, which directly involve public opinion. To date, there is only one study analyzing
American public attitudes toward transgender people. This research gap makes it unclear whether
people in general understand what transgender means and whether public support for transgender rights
depends on understanding and knowing transgender people. Since the population of transgender people
is estimated to be smaller than that of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, examining whether and how
having a friend or family member who is lesbian or gay relates to transgender rights is important
to understand political coalitions and attitude change. This study examines public attitudes about
transgender rights in the USA. It finds that as respondents report being more informed about transgender
people they tend to have more supportive attitudes. Interpersonal contact with someone who is lesbian
or gay also leads to a secondary transfer of positive attitudes. About half of the secondary transfer
effect operates through a mechanism of attitude generalization: contact positively affects the opinions
people have on gay rights that then broaden to affect attitudes on transgender rights. Demographic
characteristics also indicate that predictors of transgender attitudes are similar to previous studies
regarding attitudes toward lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. Further survey efforts need to consider
inquiring about transgender rights and attitudes, as this remains a research gap in need of scholarly
understanding.

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