Pew Research Center releases report from focus groups with transgender, non-binary Americans

This week the Pew Research Center released its findings from focus groups of transgender and non-binary Americans, in which they discuss their experiences, challenges and hopes for the future.

As Pew noted, their research comes at a time of increased visibility and acceptance of transgender people in American life as  evidenced by the U.S. State Department and Social Security Administration announcing earlier this year Americans  will be allowed to select “X” rather than “male” or “female” for  sex markers on passports and Social Security applications. At the same time, a number of states – including North Carolina – have moved to limit the rights of transgender people, what children may learn about them in school and may make teachers, counselors and administrators out LGBTQ students to their parents before they are ready.

One such bill, N.C. House Bill 755, is one procedural vote from heading to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk. Though Cooper has signaled he will likely veto the bill, Republicans see it as a wedge issue in the coming elections.

From Pew’s announcement of its survey data:

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that 1.6% of U.S. adults are transgender or nonbinary – that is, their gender is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. This includes people who describe themselves as a man, a woman or nonbinary, or who use terms such as gender fluid or agender to describe their gender. While relatively few U.S. adults are transgender, a growing share say they know someone who is (44% today vs. 37% in 2017). One-in-five say they know someone who doesn’t identify as a man or woman.

In order to better understand the experiences of transgender and nonbinary adults at a time when gender identity is at the center of many national debates, Pew Research Center conducted a series of focus groups with trans men, trans women and nonbinary adults on issues ranging from their gender journey, to how they navigate issues of gender in their day-to-day life, to what they see as the most pressing policy issues facing people who are trans or nonbinary. This is part of a larger study that includes a survey of the general public on their attitudes about gender identity and issues related to people who are transgender or nonbinary. Those survey results will be released later this summer.

These focus groups were not designed to be representative of the entire population of trans and nonbinary U.S. adults, but the participants’ stories provide a glimpse into some of the experiences of people who are transgender and/or nonbinary. The groups included a total of 27 transgender and nonbinary adults from around the U.S. and ranging in age from late teens to mid-60s. Most currently live in an urban area, but about half said they grew up in a suburb. The groups included a mix of White, Black, Hispanic, Asian and multiracial American participants. See Methodology for more details.


The report delves into how those in the focus groups identify, when and how they realized they were transgender or non-binary and their experience navigating medical care, among other issues.

The report also uses pull-quotes from participants in the focus groups to highlight their experiences in their own voices.

Read the full Pew Research Center focus group report here.

Read more about methodology here.

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