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Assessing Voter Registration Among Transgender and Gender Non-conforming Individuals

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Although public attention to transgender (trans) politics has increased dramatically in recent years, the scholarly community still has a limited understanding of how trans and gender non-conforming (GNC) individuals participate in the political system. Trans/GNC individuals are faced with a dual reality. On one hand, they are part of a highly organized and activated group whose rights depend on political engagement; on the other hand, individuals often face barriers to political participation including a lack of proper identification and low socioeconomic status. In this paper, we explore the effects of these competing forces on trans/GNC voter registration. We use the theory of oppositional consciousness to hypothesize that being part of a political and highly mobilized population helps trans/GNC individuals overcome barriers to participation. Using data on over 5000 self-identified trans/GNC individuals from the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey we show that, though individuals are less likely to participate if they lack gender-conforming identification, on the whole trans/GNC individuals in this survey register at rates that are consistent with or higher than the general population. The evidence points to the importance of the trans political movement in activating and developing oppositional consciousness in its members. We explore the implications of these findings and what they mean for future research.

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  1. A replication dataset and code file are available on Political Behavior’s Dataverse site

  2. In 2015 there was a second iteration of this survey conducted called the United States Transgender Survey. This survey asks more political questions; however, at time of press these data were not publicly available. The 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey also included a single measure of transgender identity; however, this measure does not differentiate between trans and GNC identity.


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Correspondence to Melanie M. Bowers.


Appendix A

See Table 3.

Table 3 Tests of multicollinearity

Appendix B

See Table 4.

Table 4 Logistic coefficients for voter registration among transgender and gender non-conforming individuals

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Bowers, M.M., Whitley, C.T. Assessing Voter Registration Among Transgender and Gender Non-conforming Individuals. Polit Behav 42, 143–164 (2020).

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