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Black Americans Firmly Support Gender Equality but Are Split on Transgender and Nonbinary Issues

Confident lesbian woman holding rainbow flag during pride parade

Nearly six-in-ten want organizations working for Black progress to address the distinct challenges facing Black LGBTQ people

Discussions about gender equality and feminism have a long history among Black Americans, with hallmarks like Maria Miller Stewart in 1832; the Combahee River Collective in 1977; Anita Hill in 1991; and the ongoing discussions about how women are represented in rap music, both as subjects and performers of songs. These often-contentious debates raise questions about the relative importance of gender among Black Americans, given the long history of racial inequality in the United States.

At the same time, the intersection of race with gender identity and sexuality presents a unique set of challenges for Black Americans. LGBTQ people of color are more likely to report incidences of higher discrimination than White LGBTQ people, and these intersectional differences are particularly dire when it comes to transgender and nonbinary people specifically. Since 2013, more than 300 transgender and nonbinary people have been victims of fatal violence, and nearly two-thirds (63%) of those victims have been Black transgender women, according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation

In recent years, Pew Research Center has conducted multiple studies that focus on gender and gender identity. A new analysis of Black Americans’ views on gender equality, gender roles, feminism, and transgender and nonbinary issues incorporates data from four of these focused surveys conducted between 2019 and 2022. A more in-depth overview of the methodology, including details on each separate survey, can be found here.

Black adults firmly support gender equality and view feminism as a positive force for women, but many do not use ‘feminist’ to describe themselves

About eight-in-ten non-Hispanic Black adults say it is very important for women to have equal rights with men (79%). The majority of Black adults (76%) also say the feminist movement has done a great deal or a fair amount to advance women’s rights. And about half of Black adults say feminism has helped Black women (49%).

These findings stand in stark contrast to the contentious history that Black Americans have had with the feminist movement. Black women were relegated to the back of feminist marches in the 19th century, if not completely excluded. Black women redefined their approach to women’s equality, and even renamed it “womanism” to make it more inclusive of their needs and to reject the exclusion they had experienced in feminist organizations.

This history provides context for the findings of the 2020 survey, which indicate that about two-thirds (68%) of Black adults view feminism as empowering, but nearly half (48%) would not use the term “feminist” to describe themselves.

Black adults are split over how much society should accept transgender people

The social difficulties that Black LGBTQ people experience are reflected in Black Americans’ views on gender identity issues, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults. Only 13% of non-Hispanic Black adults say that U.S. society is extremely or very accepting of transgender people.

However, Black adults are split in their views on how accepting society should be. While 36% say society has not gone far enough in accepting people who are transgender, 31% say the level of acceptance in society has been about right and 29% say it has gone too far. And while about four-in-ten Black adults (41%) say views about transgender people and issues are changing at the right speed, roughly a third (34%) say they are changing too quickly.

These divergent points of view exist alongside each other, demonstrating that Black Americans’ views on gender identity issues show much less consensus than their views on gender equality.

Additional findings from the report:

Black Americans are critical of the progress of women’s equality in the U.S. About seven-in-ten Black adults (69%) say that the U.S. has not gone far enough in giving women equal rights with men. And among those who say this, a quarter say it’s not too or not at all likely that there will be equal rights between women and men in the future.

Black Americans are more likely to have egalitarian views about gender roles than their houses of worship. Black adults believe that mothers and fathers who live in the same household should share parenting (86%) and financial responsibilities (73%). However, the majority of Black Americans who attend religious services at least a few times a year say their congregations are more likely to emphasize men’s financial role in the family and involvement in Black communities as role models than women’s family and community roles.

Black Americans are more likely to know someone who is transgender or nonbinary than to identify as such themselves. About 1.4% of Black adults are transgender or nonbinary. However, 35% of Black adults say they know someone who is transgender. And among those who have heard at least a little about people who do not identify as a man or woman, 26% say they know someone who identifies this way.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It does not take policy positions. The Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. Subscribe to our email newsletters or follow us on social media.

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