Most Americans OK Discussing Gender and Sexuality in Schools: Survey

Most Americans say that lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation should be discussed in schools, according to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute.

Of 5,000 adults surveyed, 65 percent agreed that it was appropriate to discuss the idea that someone may seek out romantic relationships with a person of the same sex in the classroom. However, it depended on the grades. Only 8 percent said it was appropriate to talk about in elementary school, 24 percent said it was for middle school, and 19 percent for high school. 

Just 34 percent said that it is “never appropriate” to discuss romantic same-sex relationships in classrooms. Fifty-five percent of Republicans agreed to that statement — three times the amount of Democrats in agreement at 18 percent. Republicans were also more than twice as likely to say public schools interfere “too much” with so-called parental rights, with 79 percent compared to 31 percent of Democrats.

Twenty-four percent of respondents said it was “never appropriate” to talk about opposite-sex relationships in classrooms. 

Only around one-third of respondents also said that lessons on gender identity are “never appropriate.” The report also noted that those who personally know a transgender person were less likely to agree, but only 11 percent of those surveyed said they have a close relationship with someone who is transgender. 63 percent said they did not know any trans people.

The study comes as GOP-controlled states attempt to enact versions of Florida’s infamous “don’t say gay” law. Those laws forbid discussions on gender and sexual orientation in classrooms but are too vague that advocates say talking about a teacher’s same-sex partner could be a violation. It’s also been used to justify book bans surrounding LGBTQ+ topics. Florida recently expanded the law to cover more than just elementary school grades.

Recent data noted in the report also found that the public’s perception of gender identity is shifting, with less people saying they believe that sex and gender are separate. Americans who believe in multiple gender identities fell to 34 percent in 2023 from 40 percent in 2021, with 90 percent of Republicans and only 44 percent of Democrats saying they believe in the gender binary.

PRRI researchers directly attribute the change in beliefs to conservative-leaning media.

“The definition of gender has become a high-profile and controversial topic in the public discourse in recent years, receiving significant conservative media attention,” PRRI CEO Melissa Deckman said in a statement. “We’re seeing a hardening of position in support of a gender binary nationally, informed largely by partisanship and news consumption.”