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Poll: GOP voters are split on government blocking vital gender-affirming care for trans youth

The survey results carry special significance for transgender conservatives, who are speaking out against legislation that has targeted trans youths.

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This story was originally published by The 19th

Republicans surveyed by the left-leaning polling firm Data for Progress are nearly evenly split on whether the government should prevent transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming care.

The national polling data, shared exclusively with The 19th, suggests that GOP voters are not nearly as supportive of anti-trans bills being pushed by Republican state lawmakers across the country as some Republican politicians may want to believe. The data also carries significance for trans Republicans who spoke with The 19th about running in their local elections. 

Forty-six percent of Republicans polled from February 25 to 27 by Data for Progress said they believe the government should leave decisions about gender-affirming care to families and their doctors, while 43 percent said the government should prevent trans youth from accessing that care. Eleven percent said they weren’t sure.

Still, a majority of Republican voters indicated in a later question that they supported Texas’ order to investigate families seeking gender-affirming care for their children, which also directs teachers and doctors to report trans children receiving that care.

GOP lawmakers have in the past year introduced a record-breaking onslaught of legislation to restrict and criminalize trans youth’s access to gender-affirming care like hormone treatment and puberty blockers, both widely recommended by the foremost medical associations on trans health. So far only Arkansas has succeeded, and that measure is tied up in a lawsuit. But other moves, such as the Texas directive, have endangered or stopped programs providing that care

Such legislation can cause harm even in places where it does not pass or take effect. Two-thirds of LGBTQ+ people aged 13 to 24 told Morning Consult and youth LGBTQ+ advocacy group the Trevor Project earlier this year that debates over anti-trans bills had negatively impacted their mental health. Families from Arkansas and Texas have uprooted to move to different states. Advocates have repeatedly warned that the rhetoric will cause trans homicides to continue increasing.  

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Several transgender conservatives told The 19th that watching GOP state lawmakers advance so many anti-trans bills has been frustrating — and that this poll suggests Republicans’ opinions on trans health care, as well as their knowledge of it, is more varied than those lawmakers may expect.

Jordan Evans, a trans Republican who has continued to run for local office in Massachusetts after transitioning in 2015 — when, to her knowledge, she became the first openly trans GOP elected official in the United States — said the split in opinion in the poll is comforting.

“I’ll take that as there are still enough people out there who understand why this is such a travesty and are willing to be like, ‘Well, I’m not sure if that’s OK,’” she said. “We need those people right now. … We need them to also speak up and speak out.”

To Jennifer Williams, the nation’s first openly transgender municipal chair for the Republican Party, the poll suggests that anti-trans bills may not be the winning issue that some Republicans want it to be.  

“It’s abysmal, it’s terrible what’s happening. And it is purely done for political purposes,” Williams said. 

“It’s embarrassing that there are Republicans who think that this is a way to build their name,” she said. 

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Some within the party, including the governors of Arkansas, North Dakota and, more recently, Utah, have taken a stance against anti-trans measures, including vetoing or vowing to veto them.

The poll’s split in opinion on the government’s role in gender-affirming care did not carry over to the latest developments in Texas. Responding to a separate question on that same survey, 59 percent of likely GOP voters said they either strongly support or somewhat support the order to investigate the families of trans children, while only 31 percent said they somewhat or strongly oppose it. 

Charlotte Clymer, a Democrat and first trans board member of LPAC, a super PAC that funds LGBTQ+ women running for office, said the discrepancy between the questions follows a polling trend of voters being more open to supporting trans rights when asked about it in broader terms. 

“I think most Republican voters, at the end of the day, don’t know what to think about trans issues,” she said. “The leaders of the party may want action against trans kids because they feel that this will help their bottom line politically, but … it's not really clear that the base necessarily wants this.”

Misinformation could be further driving that wedge between Republican voters’ support for Texas’ anti-trans order and their opposition to broader government interference with gender-affirming care, Williams said. 

Gender-affirming care for trans youth is not controversial in the medical community. The American Academy of Pediatrics backs the care and several studies have found the care reduces suicidality and depression. LGBTQ+ and trans advocates, as well as families of trans youth and providers of gender-affirming care, have stressed that the care is life saving.

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Gender-affirming care is extremely important, Evans said. Although she’s not unhappy with where she is now, being able to access that care when she was younger would have made a big difference in her life. 

“I was a closeted queer youth, in particular for me a closested trans youth, and I did not have any resources. I did not have anyone to talk to,” she said. “I can't even imagine how different things would’ve been if I had resources, let alone access, to affirming care.”

Bhavik Kumar, who oversees health care for trans adults at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and serves as Texas’ lead for the advocacy group Committee to Protect Health Care, said that Texas’ attempts to label gender-affirming care for minors as child abuse “adds an air of stigma” onto care that, while it may be legally and politically complex, is not medically complex. 

“It has direct implications on folks that are doing the work now but also has implications on the future generation of providers,” he said. 

The Data for Progress onlinepoll of 1,162 likely voters, with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points weighted to be representative by age, gender, education, race and voting history, was carried out as part of the organization's weekly omnibus survey, spokesperson McKenzie Wilson said. Forty-two percent said they live in a suburban area, 28 percent reported living in urban areas, and 29 percent said they live in a rural area. 

Previous polling has also suggested that many Republicans do not support anti-trans bills. A PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist survey from last spring found that two-thirds of Americans opposed laws to limit transgender rights — and that 70 percent of polled Republicans opposed bills to prohibit gender-transition-related care for minors. GOP opposition nearly matched Democrat opposition.

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Within the party, another poll from LPAC from last year suggests that younger Republicans are more open to supporting trans rights than their older counterparts. The organization’s national survey with Lake Research Partners last fall found that young Republicans had more positive views of politicians who support trans rights than older Republicans.

Being a trans Republican in the current political climate can be challenging. Adelynn Campbell, a barista living in Michigan, in 2018 went for the second time to the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC, a gathering of conservative activists. She was excited to meet other trans conservatives since this was her first CPAC after starting her transition. 

Although she later canvassed for Republican North Carolina state Rep. Phillip Shepard’s 2019 congressional district race and started political work in D.C. through a temp agency, Campbell has since left working in politics because she did not feel safe coming out as a trans woman, she said.

“It can be difficult working as a trans person in the Republican Party, in some places,” she said. After the 2020 election, she now considers herself an independent who mostly aligns with conservative policies.

Evans said that she has been discouraged and disappointed as she watches state lawmakers within her own party push more and more anti-trans bills — and she asked Republicans who disagree with the legislation to voice their dissent. 

“I’m hurt, like any trans person is right now. We’re all kind of in pain,” Evans said. “But what really gets me is just how this has been allowed to get to this point.” 

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The 19th is an independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy.

Orion Rummler is a reporter on The 19th's breaking news team. He previously anchored live news coverage at Axios, including the January 6 Capitol attack, the coronavirus and the 2020 election. He also researched “Axios on HBO” stories on former President Donald Trump and expanded the outlet’s LGBTQ+ coverage.

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Kelley Robinson to be first Black, queer woman to lead Human Rights Campaign

Robinson, who comes to the LGBTQ+ civil rights organization from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said her identities shape how she will approach the job.

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This story was originally published by The 19th

Kelley Robinson will be the new president of the Human Rights Campaign and the first Black, queer woman to lead the group, the organization announced Tuesday.

Robinson is a veteran organizer in progressive politics who comes to the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, where she worked for three years as executive director. She takes the helm in the wake of the end of federal protections for abortion access and as states are considering and passing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

In an interview with The 19th ahead of the HRC’s announcement of her role, Robinson said that her many identities — as Black, queer, a woman, a mother and wife — shape how she will approach the job.

“My identities always remind me of that responsibility and help me to open the door for others,” Robinson said. “Just my being here is revolutionary. I also have a lot of privilege. I show up in the world as a cisgender woman. I have to make sure I’m creating space for others whose identity I don’t hold, to make sure they see that this movement for LGBTQ+ people is a space where all of us are seen, where all of us are celebrated, and we’re going to fight like hell to make sure all of us have the freedoms we deserve.”

Robinson is the latest Black woman and queer person tapped to head progressive organizations historically led by White people, including Laphonza Butler at Emily’s List, Alexis McGill Johnson at Planned Parenthood and Fatima Goss Graves at the National Women’s Law Center. 

Robinson’s predecessor, Alphonso David, the organization’s first Black leader in its 40-year history, was one of several advocates who advised former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s team on sexual harassment allegations. The New York attorney general said in a report that David, a longtime aide to Cuomo before joining HRC, was one of several outside advisers who engaged in a “flurry of communication” to protect Cuomo.

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In a span of weeks, the HRC conducted a review of David’s interactions with Cuomo, David and the board disputed the results of that review, and the organization announced its boards had decided to fire David.  

Asked whether she was concerned about these issues being resolved and how much of her new role would require repair and trust-building in the organization, Robinson did not address the issue directly, but said: “The progressive movement is in a space where we are really reckoning with not only ensuring that we are fighting for justice externally but also making sure that within the walls of our organization, staff, volunteers, activists, leaders are also experiencing that same sort of dignity and respect that we’re fighting for externally.”

Robinson said that HRC has done “an incredible job” of nurturing staff and building volunteer leadership to be ready for this moment, adding, “The crisis is so urgent that the only way to look is really forward in terms of what we’ve got to do next.”

A number of states have passed laws restricting the discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in schools, and some have also passed anti-trans bills about participation in athletics. And the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which based a federal right to abortion in a right to privacy guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, has raised some questions about whether a decision for marriage equality, based in that same right, is also vulnerable. The Senate has delayed a vote on a bill that would protect some aspects of marriage equality until after the November midterm elections.

The Human Rights Campaign has a mandate to ensure freedom and liberation for every LGBTQ+ person and to address the intersectional challenges of the moment, Robinson said. That looks like fighting for marriage equality and saving the lives of transgender people who are being murdered, working to ensure access to medical services from abortion to gender-affirming care, and pushing for dignity in workplace regardless of the industry, she said.

“We’ve talked about intersectionality as a theory and now we’re applying it to our movement building work as truly the only way for us to survive,” Robinson said. “Our opposition is intersectional. They will say that they are coming after our ability to marry who we want, and at the same time, coming after our abortion rights, after immigration rights, climate justice and more. So we have got to have a more broad and powerful intersectional response.”

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The 19th is an independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy.

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200K+ Transgender Citizens Could Face Barriers to Voting

Voter registration requirements and voter ID laws may present a challenge for transgender people who do not have accurate identification.

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Person dropping paper on box. (Element5 Digital/Pexels)

An estimated 878,300 transgender adults will be eligible to vote in the 2022 midterm elections, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. Approximately 203,700 of them could have problems voting at the polls because they do not have an ID that correctly reflects their name and/or gender. Approximately 64,800 of these transgender adults reside in states with the strictest forms of voter ID laws and could potentially be disenfranchised.

In the U.S., 35 states have voter ID laws that require people to provide some form of identification to vote. Eight states with the strictest voter ID laws—Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wisconsin—require people to show a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, U.S. passport, or military ID to vote using a regular ballot.

“The requirements for updating the name and gender on official IDs vary widely across states, and the process can be complex and costly,” said lead author Kathryn O’Neill, Policy Analyst at the Williams Institute. “Transgender voters who live in states that require an ID to vote may face scrutiny or be turned away at the polls.”

Transgender people of color, young adults, students, people with low incomes, those experiencing homelessness, and people with disabilities are more likely to not have accurate IDs for voting.

“Voter ID laws may create barriers to voting for substantial numbers of voting-eligible transgender people, which is particularly notable in elections that are decided by a few votes,” said co-author Jody L. Herman, Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “States should take steps to improve access to voting for transgender people by changing voter ID laws, making the process of obtaining accurate IDs simpler and more affordable, training poll workers, and reducing barriers to voting more broadly.”

Read the report 

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These companies publicly oppose anti-LGBTQ+ bills. Some fund lawmakers who sponsor them.

Lawmakers in 6 states with a high number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills received hundreds of thousands from major companies in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles.

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Ohio Valley Pride Parade. (Rosemary Ketchum/Pexels)

This story was originally published by The 19th

After signing a pledge opposing anti-LGBTQ+ state legislation last spring, companies like AT&T, Amazon, Pfizer, and CVS Health gave thousands of dollars to the campaign efforts of lawmakers who had been backing such bills, according to a recent analysis from Data for Progress, a left-leaning polling firm. 

Lawmakers in six states who wrote, signed or sponsored anti-LGBTQ+ legislation received tens of thousands and, in a few cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars, from major U.S. corporations in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles, Data for Progress found. 

Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Tennessee, Idaho and Texas have been prolific in their efforts to bar trans students from school sports, restrict gender-affirming care for minors and ban LGBTQ+ discussions from classrooms over the past few years. 

At least seven companies tracked by Data for Progress continued campaign donations for the 2022 election cycle to politicians backing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation after signing a pledge against such bills from the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom for All Americans. The pledge says the companies “are deeply concerned” about anti-LGBTQ+ bills and that they call for “public leaders to abandon or oppose” the legislation, but it did not explicitly address campaign donations.

Thirty companies that made campaign contributions were also official Pride sponsors in 2021 or 2022 for various cities across the country. Other companies, including General Motors, signed the pledge after making donations for the 2020 campaign cycle but have not given since then, according to the analysis, which goes through May. 

Companies have long engaged in political spending that contradicts their public values while seeking to back other interests, such as favorable and unrelated legislation.  This discrepancy is can be particularly stark during Pride month. While the donations may not have been made with anti-LGBTQ+ bills in mind, the money carries extra weight in the states that Data for Progress studied, since lawmakers there have actually passed anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans legislation after introducing bills at a rapid pace, local and national LGBTQ+ advocates said. 

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Among the six states studied by Data for Progress, Alabama had the highest number of anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers receiving corporate campaign contributions. The state recently passed a felony ban on puberty-blocking medication or hormone treatment for transgender youth — one of the strictest bills limiting access to medical care. It was blocked last month by a federal judge.

Dillon Nettles, policy and advocacy director for the ACLU of Alabama, said the funding from companies that have publicly espoused support for LGBTQ+ rights is “deeply disappointing” — and shows an inconsistent commitment to supporting the community. 

“It seems really risky for companies at this point in time to be willing to backslide on that commitment knowing that this is a moment where the country is being more activated and galvanized by these attacks on trans rights, and even more broadly, LGBTQ+ rights,” he said.

Data for Progress’ analysis is also just a small snapshot of the larger campaign finance contributions that major companies have made to anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers across the country. The newsletter Popular Information has tracked such spending for several years and has found that 25 companies eager to publicly celebrate Pride have donated $13 million since the start of last year to politicians backing anti-LGBTQ+ bills. 

The 19th reached out to 16 companies for comment regarding their campaign contributions to politicians who had backed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. None responded except AT&T, which made the second-most donations of any company tracked by Data for Progress. (Toyota gave the most.)

When taking public positions on government policies, AT&T focuses on areas such as broadband access and expansion, spokesperson Alex Byers said in an emailed statement. 

“Contributions to a particular lawmaker do not mean we support their views or actions on every issue,” he said. “We are mindful of diverse and complex societal issues that affect us, and we most immediately address these issues through direct social programs, philanthropy, employee benefits, and community involvement.”

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None of the lawmakers named in this story returned requests for comment. 

Victoria Kirby York, deputy executive director of the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization National Black Justice Coalition, said that as anti-trans rhetoric among Republican lawmakers grows and more bills are actually making it into law, corporations that want to support LGBTQ+ people need to reevaluate their relationships with state politicians. 

“There’s definitely a cognitive dissonance in saying you’re about equality and discrimination protections and for racial justice and LGBTQ+ equity and all of the things, and then to give millions upon millions of dollars to people working to undermine and demolish those protections,” they said. 

In Data for Progress’ analysis, contributions to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaigns account for well over half of the total money spent on anti-LGBTQ politicians across these six states. He received just over $2.2 million, primarily from three companies based in Texas: Toyota, AT&T and Enterprise Products Partners, an oil and gas company, per Data for Progress’ count.  

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, the second-highest-funded politician the organization tracked, received $302,000 for her reelection efforts, the bulk of it coming from Southern Co., which oversees Alabama Power. Several of her recent campaign ads have specifically showcased her support for anti-trans bills. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ranked third in campaign contributions at $192,000, with USAA and Farmers Insurance making the biggest donations.

In Texas, the state legislature held back-to-back special legislative sessions in 2021, with the last two specifically called to discuss anti-trans measures, among other bills. This year, Paxton issued an opinion labeling gender-affirming care as child abuse, and under Abbott’s order the state began investigations into families accessing gender-affirming care for their children. (The ACLU and Lambda Legal have filed another lawsuit to block state probes.)

Following months of those legislative sessions, Toyota, a Pride sponsor for Los Angeles this year, contributed $150,000 to Abbott’s reelection efforts in December, Data for Progress found. AT&T, which signed the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom for All Americans pledge against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation last spring,gave $10,000 to Paxton’s campaign in February this year. 

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To Adri Pérez, a policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, the campaign funds are a clear signal that many corporations will put their own self-interests ahead of standing with LGBTQ+ people. 

While Pérez said companies need to be held accountable, they aren’t sure this is possible unless everyone makes a conscious choice to put that pressure on — including the LGBTQ+ groups platforming businesses that say they support LGBTQ+ rights. 

“Do they have to be held accountable? Yeah. Are they going to change their minds? I don’t know,” they said. 

Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, said that making a pledge to oppose anti-LGBTQ+ legislation while funding politicians who back these laws is ultimately meaningless. Advocates need meaningful help to get out of a “continued cycle of horrific moments,” he said, and to him that means going beyond publicly denouncing legislation after the fact. 

Companies need to commit to employ more trans people, to provide benefits for queer families, and to not funding elected officials targeting trans youth, he said — while consumers need to reject a lack of integrity from companies who publicly back LGBTQ+ rights. 

“It’s not going to change overnight,” he said. “And at the end of the day, the people have the power to intervene in this.” 

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Rachael Salisbury, vice president at a political research firm for progressive campaigns, who co-authored the Data for Progress analysis as a fellow for the organization, said she hopes that Pride organizations will use the data to screen companies that want to sponsor their events — and that companies will stop such donations. 

When companies sign pledges against anti-LGBTQ+ bills, including the pledge by HRC and Freedom for All Americans, “those are just pretty words at this point,” she said. 

“I want to give those leaders of those companies the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully they’re not being intentionally duplicitous, but even if it is just carelessness, we can’t tolerate that in our allies anymore,” Salisbury said. 

HRC and Freedom for All Americans said in emailed statements that working with companies on issues like political contributions or private lobbying, respectively, are key parts of their advocacy work for LGBTQ+ rights. 

“We encourage companies not to donate to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians, and to reckon with how damaging and harmful those donations are to the community, including their own LGBTQ+ employees,” HRC press secretary Aryn Fields said in a statement. 

“Companies have a singular ability to gain audience with lawmakers across the political spectrum, and can help share both the human and business reasons that this kind of policymaking is at odds with corporate values, public opinion, and long-term competitiveness,” Freedom for All Americans communications VP Angela Dallara said in an emailed statement. 

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On whether LGBTQ+ groups should ask companies for financial commitments when signing pledges against anti-LGBTQ+ bills, or if something should be done differently on such letters, Freedom for All Americans does not have a position, Dallara said. HRC declined to comment on what changes should be made to such pledges.

Disclosure: Pfizer, CVS Health, the Human Rights Campaign, and the chairman of Enterprise Product Partners, Randa Duncan Williams, have been financial supporters of The 19th. 

The 19th is an independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy.

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