According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one million people in the U.S. identify as transgender. That’s about 0.6% of the adult population.
U.S. Census data does not ask whether a person identifies as transgender. However, according to the World Population Review, each of the 50 states has acquired data for its transgender population. Washington, D.C., has the highest percentage at 2.77. North Dakota has the fewest.
Outside of the U.S., researchers have found it much more difficult to determine the number of transgender people. Lack of clear data, the way statistics are kept, and the vague wording of surveys all prevent an accurate count.
According to the World Population Review: “There is very little data as to how many transgender people there are in [nations that recognize transgenderism]. Some nations, such as India, recognize transgender as a third gender. However, there are other nations that are not so open to this idea.”
Researchers believe there may be about 30,000 transgender people in the European Union. However, they based these estimates on numbers taken from health professionals. These numbers only included people who either had sex reassignment surgeries or who were undergoing hormone treatment. The number goes up if researchers broaden the definition. If they take into account people who simply identify as the opposite sex and who do not undergo any kind of hormone therapy or surgery, researchers say there could be as many as 1.5 million transgender people in the EU.
What Does “Transgender” Mean?
Transgender is an umbrella term. It encompasses anyone who identifies as a gender differing from their biological sex or as no gender at all, or anyone who has had a sex-change operation. A person who is transgender might be a male who identifies as female. She might be a female who identifies as male. A transgender person can identify as neither male nor female. Or he/she could be a person who identifies as a mix of both.
A transgender male is a person who was born female and who now lives as a male. A transgender female is a person who was born male and who now lives as a female.
Simply put, individuals who are transgender have a gender identity—an “internal, deeply held sense of their gender”—that differs from their sex at birth.
In other words, a person’s gender identity is the way he feels about what sex he is.
These feelings sometimes lead to emotional distress. When they do, it is termed gender dysphoria.
What Is Gender Dysphoria?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, gender dysphoria is a “condition in which a person has marked incongruence between the expressed or experienced gender and the biological sex at birth.” These feelings can lead to distress and an inability to function, either socially or emotionally.
The APA identifies many possible stressors and obstacles. These include rejection at work or within their family, discrimination in housing, or fear of discussing health issues with a doctor. Any of these can lead to anxiety and depression.
However, if the person feels no distress and encounters no impairment in his day-to-day life, he may not suffer from gender dysphoria.
Transgender People by Age and Ethnicity
According to 2016 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, of those in the US who identify as transgender, “55 percent identify as white, 16 percent identify as African-American or black, 21 percent identify as Latino or Hispanic, and 8 percent identify as another race or ethnicity.”
In addition, transgender youth ages 13-17 make up 0.7% of the youth population. That’s about 150,000 people. Transgender adults, ages 18-24, also make up 0.7% of their population. The percentages are very similar throughout the older age brackets. In the 25-64 age range, transgender people make up 0.6% of all people, and those 65 and older account for 0.5% of their demographic.
The largest populations of transgender youth within the 13-17 age category live in Texas, California, New York, and Florida. The smallest populations live in Wyoming, Vermont, and North Dakota.
Transgender Males vs. Transgender Females
Are there more transgender males or females?
Statistics like this are difficult to determine. However, some records indicate that there are more transgender men than transgender women. This is evident in a report from the American Society for Plastic Surgeons. It states that sex-reassignment surgery was the highest growing surgery in 2016-2017. During this time, these surgeries grew by 155%. The increase for transgender men was 289%. The increase for transgender women was much lower, at 41%.
In addition, since its founding in 1936, the Social Security Administration has kept a list of people who have changed names from one sex to another. Using this criterion, it identified 135,367 who were likely transgender people. Of these 135,367, 65% were transgender men and 35% were transgender women.
The census does not ask about transgenderism. However, according to the 2010 census, 89,667 people changed their names to the opposite sex. Many of these were likely transgender people. This number is a low estimate of the population, however. It leaves out people who did not change their names, or who don’t have a Social Security card.
In addition, “gender identity” can be fluid. Because it is not grounded in biological reality, it can change at a person’s whim. Thus, if a man decides he wants to identify as a woman, he may do so. But he can always change his mind a month, three months, or five years down the road.
Social and Economic Implications of Transgenderism
In our increasingly secular world where people want to live and let live, the trend is to allow people to do what feels good rather than what may benefit them as a whole person. Many people think, “He’s not hurting anyone. Why should I care?”
But whether they are hurting others or not, transgender individuals often suffer.
A 2008 US survey found that transgender individuals were “four times more likely to live in extreme poverty.” In addition, they had twice the rate of unemployment. They were twice as likely to be homeless. They were four times as likely to be infected with HIV. And, because they feared discrimination, nearly one-third of transgenders were afraid to seek medical treatment.
Furthermore, 41% reported at least one attempt at suicide.
More than half (60%) of the people throughout the world claim they want to see more support and protection for transgender people. Similarly, about 60% of people worldwide believe that their country is becoming more tolerant.
U.S. Governmental Policy
Violence against a transgender person is considered a hate crime. And 20 states, plus D.C., have laws in effect that ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in housing, employment, and in public accommodations.
Several other states have “incomplete” laws. These laws protect transgender people in some ways.
Openly transgender people cannot serve in the military. However, more than 60% of Americans believe that they should be able to.
A 2019 Public Religion Research Institute article about transgender support says that over 60% of Americans claim to be more supportive of transgender rights now than they were five years ago. The most supportive age group is young Americans. About 68% of people in the 18-29 age range report an increase in support.
Though it’s still a small percentage, the number of people identifying as transgender is increasing. This is likely due to the fact that people are more accepting of these alternate lifestyles. It is also likely that young people are encouraged to explore any feelings of gender confusion. Pressure from social media, pro-transgender groups, and peers play a role as well. Young people are encouraged to give in to their feelings of gender confusion. They are taught that any feelings or wants are okay to pursue.
Can a Person’s Sex Really Be Changed?
A person can have some of his sex organs changed. He can take hormones to suppress hair growth. He can change his clothes. But these things only affect appearance. An actual sex change is not physically possible. Science has proven that sex is encoded in our DNA from the moment a child is first created. Sex differences can be seen in our organs, bodily systems, and cells. A sex-change operation cannot change these things.
Ryan T. Anderson, PhD, has done extensive research on transgenderism. In 2018, he wrote a book entitled When Harry Became Sally. Here, he examines the need to help people through their struggles to want to become the opposite sex. In a 2018 article, he asks two very poignant questions: “How do we define mental health and human flourishing? And what is the purpose of medicine, particularly psychiatry?”
He answers his own question when he states:
We flourish as human beings when we embrace the truth and live in accordance with it. A person might find some emotional relief in embracing a falsehood, but doing so would not make him or her objectively better off. Living by a falsehood keeps us from flourishing fully, whether or not it also causes distress.
Indeed, flourishing is what God wants for us. Our mental health is as important to God as our physical health. But neither is as important as our spiritual health.
The Catholic Church and Transgenderism
“God created mankind in His image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”
As Catholics, we believe that God created us in His image. Every single person has inherent dignity and value. Barring a chromosomal defect, human beings are either male or female. That’s a matter of science.
Recently, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, wrote a letter to his diocese entitled “Compassion and Challenge.” In it, he states:
There’s a wide variety of personalities, and they don’t always fit gender-stereotypes. But that doesn’t mean being male or female is negotiable, or that sex and gender can be separated….Catholic understanding of the human person holds that sex and gender cannot be separated, and that there are limits to how we should manipulate our bodies.
Education is key to helping our children grow in the faith. We can teach them to feel comfortable in their own bodies. It’s key to keeping them from making choices based on feelings. And it’s key to teaching them to love their bodies as God made them.
Archbishop Carlson states that we are called to offer compassion, not criticism, to those who are questioning their gender identity. He speaks of God’s infinite love for every person. He speaks of God’s mercy, and His plan for all of us.
Our world is rapidly changing. It’s difficult to go against the norm. It’s difficult to stand up and proclaim that God wants something better for us than to see us follow our every whim. But this is exactly what the archbishop encourages us to do. And he encourages us to do it with compassion and love toward others, especially those who may not agree with us. “Love and disagreement can co-exist,” he writes.
Transgenderism is becoming more accepted in society. That’s a reality. And it’s good that we have laws to protect all people. It is never right to hurt another, or to discriminate. We are all valuable children of God. We all deserve love and respect.
But, as Catholics, we are called to act in the person of Christ. Building a Culture of Life means that we must follow God’s laws. We must live and teach His love and mercy. We must teach the truth about gender and about sex. And we must be our brothers’ keepers. This means helping them flourish as children of God without destroying their bodies.