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Most transgender adults in new survey say they are more satisfied with lives after transitioning

Getty Images/Tommy Wu

Most transgender adults in a new survey say their overall life satisfaction improved after they began living as a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth.

In a wide-ranging poll released Thursday by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), 78 percent of transgender adults living as a gender different from the one assigned to them at birth said they are happier now than they were before they transitioned.

For many, the difference in life satisfaction is substantial, with 45 percent of the more than 500 transgender adults surveyed reporting that they are “a lot” more satisfied with their lives.

“Living doesn’t hurt anymore,” T.C. Caldwell, a 37-year-old Black nonbinary person from Montgomery, Ala., told The Washington Post. “It feels good to just breathe and be myself.”

Thursday’s survey, which also includes responses from cisgender Americans on transgender-related issues, is the largest nongovernmental survey of U.S. transgender adults using random sampling methods to date. It was conducted in English and Spanish between Nov. 10 and Dec. 1, 2022, among 515 transgender and 823 cisgender adults.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to transitioning, as medical experts and members of the LGBTQ community have long known, and most transgender respondents in the Post-KFF survey reported vastly different experiences in how they have chosen to present themselves physically.

Roughly 77 percent of transgender adults said they have made changes to the type of clothing they wear or to their hairstyle or grooming habits to better fit their gender identity, and more than half — 57 percent — said they now use a different name than the one that is listed on their birth certificate, according to Thursday’s survey.

Just 31 percent of transgender respondents said they have received gender-affirming medical care, including hormone-replacement therapy or puberty blockers, while an even smaller 16 percent said they have undergone surgery to alter their physical appearance.

While not every transgender or nonbinary person may desire gender-affirming medical care, for those that do, barriers to accessing care are growing steeper by the day. Since 2021, seven states — Arkansas, Arizona, Alabama, Utah, South Dakota, Mississippi and Tennessee — have enacted laws that prohibit health care providers from providing gender-affirming care to minors.

More than 100 bills targeting transgender health care are under consideration this year in state legislatures nationwide, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Under federal legislation proposed earlier this month by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), doctors that provide gender-affirming health care to minors in the U.S. could face felony charges and up to 25 years imprisonment.

Some states, like Texas and South Carolina, are pursuing adult health care bans, potentially barring transgender people up to 26 years old from accessing gender-affirming care — which is considered medically necessary by most major medical organizations. And a new state health department rule in Florida prevents transgender residents, regardless of age, from using Medicaid to help cover the costs of gender-affirming care.

Roughly two-thirds of transgender adults in the Post-KFF survey said they knew they were transgender prior to their 18th birthday, including 32 percent who said they began to understand their gender identity when they were 10 years old or younger.

While younger transgender respondents largely reported being open with their family and friends about their gender identity, older transgender adults, or those over 35, were more likely to say they are not out to their family or friends, according to the survey.

More than 60 percent of respondents said they “sometimes” or “frequently” feel discriminated against because of their gender identity or expression, according to Thursday’s survey, while 36 percent said they “seldom” or “never” feel they are being discriminated against because of their transgender identity.

A majority of respondents also reported being verbally attacked because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, and 25 percent said they have been physically attacked. Even still, most transgender respondents said they believe people in the U.S. are more accepting of them than they were 10 years ago.

“The younger generation is showing how accepting they are,” Tessa Jelani, a 26-year-old Black trans woman from Washington, D.C., told the Post. “They are willing to love people’s differences, and it’s definitely having an effect on the older generation and showing them to loosen up. Not everything has to be explained in order for you to agree with it. We have always been here. We’re always going to be here, and y’all can’t stop it.”

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