Estimate of U.S. transgender adults doubles amid debate on rights - study

by Sebastien Malo | @SebastienMalo | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 30 June 2016 17:21 GMT

People attend the 41st LGBT Pride parade in San Francisco, June 26, 2011. REUTERS/Susana Bates

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The new estimate - double the previous figure - signals that demands for transgender rights won't go away

By Sebastien Malo

NEW YORK, June 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Twice as many U.S. adults identify as transgender than was previously thought, researchers said on Thursday, in a finding that could put pressure on lawmakers to address discrimination against transgender people.

Some 1.4 million of U.S. adults, or 0.6 percent of the country's adult population, are thought to identify as transgender, according to a study by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The new estimate - double the group's previous figure which was based on data from roughly 10 years ago - signals to lawmakers that demands for transgender rights will not go away, said co-author of the study Gary J. Gates.

Lawmakers across the United States are currently grappling with whether to allow transgender Americans to use public restrooms that match their gender identities.

Meanwhile, the killing of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, earlier this month, has shaken members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and prompted a debate about the way Americans view LGBT people.

"Having these numbers allows policymakers to make the case that these are people who are in your state, in your district, they are your friends and neighbor," Gates told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.

"It does tell policymakers that they're going to have to figure this out."

Marchers wave the transgender flag and hold signs memorializing the victims of the Orlando mass shooting at the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade in San Francisco, California, U.S. June 26, 2016. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

To calculate the new figure, researchers from the Williams Institute, a research center focused on LGBT law and policy, used 2014 state-level surveys as well as U.S. Census data.

The new estimate was the most accurate the research center had produced thanks to a rapidly growing number of states asking residents in surveys if they are transgender, providing researchers with previously inexistent data, Gates said.

Data that identifies transgender individuals from 19 state-level surveys were used to come up with the new estimate, compared to just two for the previous estimate.

Estimates for the remaining 31 states were drawn using the U.S. Census and information about the demographic characteristics of transgender people.

The highest percentage of transgender people was found in traditionally liberal Hawaii and California.

In conservative North Dakota, the percentage of transgender people were half the national estimate.

Florida, where the Orlando massacre took place, ranked sixth in the country in terms of the percentage of estimated transgender people living there.

An estimated 0.66 percent of the state's adult population was thought to be transgender, according to the study.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit

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