Public Attitudes about Transgender Participation in Sports: The Roles of Gender, Gender Identity Conformity, and Sports Fandom

Abstract

We examine the roles of gender, gender attitudes, and interest in sports on public attitudes about transgender people’s participation in athletics. Using a representative survey of 1020 adults in the United States from 2015 and after controlling for a variety of demographic, political, and attitudinal factors, we find that women, consistent with their gender identity, are more supportive than men of transgender athletes participating in sports. In addition, we find that individuals who hold traditional gender role beliefs and those who have greater gender identity conformity with their gender are less likely to support transgender athletes’ participation. The effects of gender identity conformity and beliefs in traditional gender roles are also conditioned by respondents’ gender. Sports fans are more likely to oppose transgender athletes’ participation, and female sports fans have views that resemble those of male sports fans. Finally, respondents who have contact with transgender people and those with stronger egalitarian attitudes are more favorable toward transgender participation whereas those espousing high moral traditionalism are more opposed. Our findings highlight areas of support and resistance to transgender athletes, and our work might be helpful to policymakers, as well as advocates, who promote inclusion.

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Acknowledgements

The present research was jointly funded by the University of Toledo, University of Kansas, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, and Ohio University.

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Correspondence to Andrew R. Flores.

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The authors do not declare any real or perceived direct financial benefit from this research. As with publications of peer-reviewed work, a publication may be considered in collection with other publications for promotion and/or tenure at our respective institutions. Research grants from the University of Toledo, University of Kansas, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, and Ohio University supported the survey data collection, which is used in this study. The authors did not receive personal compensation from these grants to pursue this research.

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The author’s home institutions independently approved this research as “Exempt” from human subjects review. Note that the corresponding author, who holds a dual affiliation, pursued this exemption status through the Human Subjects Review Board at the University of California at Los Angeles (where he was employed full time during the data collection).

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Flores, A.R., Haider-Markel, D.P., Lewis, D.C. et al. Public Attitudes about Transgender Participation in Sports: The Roles of Gender, Gender Identity Conformity, and Sports Fandom. Sex Roles 83, 382–398 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-019-01114-z

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Keywords

  • LGBT
  • Transgender
  • Gender
  • Sport
  • Public opinion
  • Gender Dysphoria
  • Human sex differences
  • Adult attitudes