Visibility of trans and non-binary people has increased in recent years with more coverage of stories about the community by the news and media. However, all visibility is not necessarily good visibility. While many news, media and online content sources continue to produce excellent coverage that highlight the lived experiences and key issues facing transgender and non-binary people, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s analysis suggests that some media sources may either intentionally, or inadvertently, perpetuate stigmatization of trans and non-binary people in the stories that they cover and they way they cover them. Other sources ignore transgender and non-binary people altogether, perpetrating invisibility, cultural marginalization and erasure that can have ramifications beyond news and media, as reflected in many of the opinions of adults in this analysis. News and media sources such as Fox News, Breitbart, The Daily Wire, Life Site, One America News and Newsmax especially contribute to the cultural marginalization, invisibility and erasure of trans and non-binary people, deepening the stigma the community faces.
Trans and non-binary people exist, and have for centuries across the globe. According to the Pew Research Center, 42% of adults in the United States personally know someone from the trans community – a community of more than two million people in the United States. News and media have a responsibility to feature stories about the community in ways that center transgender and non-binary voices and show the full breadth and diversity of the community through responsible storytelling. In addition to providing evidence of the news and media’s role in perpetuating the cultural marginalization, invisibility and stigmatization of trans and non-binary people, this resource provides clear recommendations for how to get coverage of the trans and non-binary community right.
The widespread lack of accurate identity documents among trans people can have an impact on every aspect of their lives, including access to emergency housing or other public services. Without identification, trans and non-binary people face additional barriers, safety issues and unnecessary scrutiny. They also cannot register for school, vote, or access many services that are essential to function in society. Many states do not allow trans people to update their identification documents to match their gender identity. Others require evidence of medical transition – which can be prohibitively expensive and is not something that all trans people want – as well as fees for processing new identity documents, which may make them unaffordable for some members of the trans community.
When people did see depictions of transgender and non-binary people, they weren’t necessarily positive. Three in ten respondents said they did not see the types of positive stories or representations of trans and non-binary people in their usual news and media assessed in this survey. At the same time, an additional third did see these sorts of positive stories.
Many adults believe that trans and non-binary people should be able to live freely and openly according to their gender identity. However, their thoughts are somewhat shaped by the way messaging is framed.
While visibility of trans and non-binary people has increased in recent years with more coverage of their stories by the news and media, not all press is good press. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s analysis suggests that news and media need to be more inclusive of and more accurately cover trans and non-binary people in their news stories and coverage. Right-leaning sources in particular contribute to negative public perceptions about trans and non-binary people. News and media that are not right-leaning can help many in the public to see that although trans and non-binary people may have different life experiences, they still deserve equal rights. Overall, the findings of this research are a call to action for all news, media and content creators to produce positive coverage of trans people that can change lives, hearts and minds.
In order to understand opinions towards the trans community, Civis Analytics interviewed 4,011 American adults from May 21, 2021 through May 31, 2021. All interviews were conducted through web panels and weighted to population demographics for a national U.S. audience. The sample sizes and margins of error are included with each table.
This research also contains analysis of crosstabs by news source consumption to supplement our initial report, with results split out into various buckets of right-leaning media and news consumption.
Respondents were grouped by news source consumption leaning using the following question:
Civis defined right-leaning versus non-right leaning sources as follows:
No Right-Leaning Sources:
Respondents who only selected sources not including Fox News, Breitbart/The Daily Wire/Life Site, One America News, Newsmax
Only Right-Leaning Sources:
Respondents who only selected at least one of Fox News, Breitbart/The Daily Wire/Life Site, One America News, Newsmax
A Mix Of Sources:
Respondents who selected at least one of Fox News, Breitbart/The Daily Wire/Life Site, One America News, Newsmax, as well as at least one non-right-leaning source
Other Unknown Sources:
Respondents who only selected None of These (exclusive)