A recent survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute reveals that Americans’ views on using gender-neutral pronouns are heavily shaped by factors such as race, religion and generation. The study’s findings are significant due to the increased attention given to the debates around LGBTQ+ rights in politics, schools and businesses.
According to the survey, Americans’ reported level of comfort with using gender-neutral pronouns is divided. Around 36% of Americans express comfort if they were to learn that a friend uses gender-neutral pronouns, while approximately 43% admit they would feel uncomfortable in such a situation.
Comfort Level by Religious Affiliation:
- White Evangelical Protestants: Only 20% feel comfortable with friends using gender-neutral pronouns, or pronouns that do not match their perceived gender appearance.
- Other White Christian Groups: White mainline/non-evangelical Protestants (35% and 36% respectively), white Catholics (31% for both questions), and Latter-day Saints (25% and 24%) are more likely to express comfort.
- Hispanic Protestants: 26% feel comfortable with gender-neutral pronouns, and 30% are comfortable with pronouns that do not match perceived gender appearance.
- Hispanic Catholics: Approximately one-third (34%) feel comfortable with both gender-neutral pronouns and pronouns that do not match perceived gender appearance.
- Black Protestants and Other Protestants of Color: Both groups report a similar level of comfort, with 35% expressing comfort with both gender-neutral pronouns and pronouns that do not match perceived gender appearance.
In addition to the pronoun aspect, the survey also investigates the appropriateness of discussing same-sex romantic relationships in public schools. It found that approximately 34% of Americans believe it is never appropriate to have such discussions in educational institutions. Republicans are more likely to hold this view, with 55% opposing these discussions compared to 18% of Democrats.
Notably, white evangelical Christians constitute the only group where a majority (62%) opposes the discussion of same-sex romantic relationships in public schools.
Melissa Deckman, CEO of PRRI, suggests that individuals with more conservative religious beliefs may feel uncomfortable using pronouns that do not align with their perception of someone’s physical appearance.
“I think for Americans who come from more conservative theologies, there’s great discomfort with using pronouns that don’t necessarily match someone’s perception of someone’s physical appearance,” Deckman told Axios.
She also highlights that younger generations tend to be more accepting of gender-neutral pronouns, which could explain why Hispanic Catholics appear to be less resistant compared to their white Catholic counterparts. The relative youthfulness of the Hispanic community, in general, may contribute to this difference in acceptance levels.
Overall, the survey reveals the diversity of opinions on gender-neutral pronouns and the discussion of same-sex relationships in public schools across different demographic groups. The findings underscore the ongoing social and political debates surrounding LGBTQ+ rights and the challenges faced by transgender and nonbinary individuals in various spheres of society.