Rutgers Eagleton Poll: Majority of New Jerseyans agree educators should protect the identity of transgender students if outing them is a safety concern

More than half correctly believe trans youth face frequent bullying, familial rejection, harassment

ASBURY PARK, NJ — A majority of New Jerseyans support protecting the privacy of transgender and nonbinary students, according to a new poll from the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University—New Brunswick. This confirms what we’ve always known: residents of the Garden State are in favor of policies that keep schools safe for LGBTQ+ youth.

The poll, conducted in December, found that 54% of New Jersey residents feel teachers shouldn’t be required by law to out trans students to their parents when they say they don’t feel safe coming out to their parents. Fifty-five percent believe teachers shouldn’t feel a personal need to out a transgender or nonbinary student to their parents. 

Nothing in the existing guidance prohibits school personnel from disclosing a transgender student’s identity from their family if the student permits it. Like everyone else, we want parents and families to be involved in decisions affecting their children. 

Unfortunately, queer and transgender youth face extremely high rates of family rejection and abandonment. For example, fewer than 40% of LGBTQ+ young people found their home to be affirming of their identity and those who did attempted suicide at lower rates, according to the Trevor Project’s 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People. Conversely, we know that safe schools save lives. More than half of LGBTQ+ youth said their school was a safe and affirming space, per the Trevor Project survey. Those who did reported attempting suicide at lower rates.

“We believe parents should know if their child identifies as LGBTQ+, but research shows time and again that if a young person is not telling their family, there is a reason,” said Lauren Albrecht (she/her), Director of Advocacy & Organizing for Garden State Equality. “This poll from the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling shows New Jerseyans understand and agree with the need for policies which protect the confidentiality — and therefore safety — of transgender and nonbinary youth.”

Most New Jerseyans also appear aware of the harsh conditions transgender and nonbinary youth face at home and in school, per the poll. Nearly four in five believe trans youth are either “frequently” or “occasionally” bullied. Seven in 10 said trans youth “frequently” or “occasionally” experience disapproval from their families; while more than half said the same thing about disapproval from teachers. Sixty-four percent said they believe trans youth “frequently” or “occasionally” experience physical abuse.

Additionally, nearly half of those surveyed said they know someone who is transgender and/or identify as transgender themselves. Those respondents were more likely than those who don’t or aren’t to believe trans youth “frequently” experience bullying, disapproval, mental health issues, verbal harassment and physical abuse. Cisgender LGBQ+ people were significantly more likely to say trans youth experience these issues than their straight counterparts.

“This poll comes at a time when the need for such policies could not be more necessary,” said Albrecht. “Across the country and even here in the Garden State, legislative attacks on the LGBTQ+ community are at an all-time high.”

An analysis of FBI data from the Washington Post found that in states with laws restricting the rights of LGBTQ+ students and the very acknowledgement of queer and trans people in education, the number of hate crimes at schools more than quadrupled. Meanwhile in New Jersey, we have seen an increase in both the number of bias incidents at schools and the number of bias incidents against LGBTQ+ people over the past several years, according to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General.

“Whether it’s implementing harmful policies — or, as we’ve seen in New Jersey, rescinding previously uncontroversial, research-backed ones — these detrimental decisions are overwhelmingly aimed at the most vulnerable members of the community: queer and trans youth,” said Albrecht.

“Garden State Equality, just like a majority of New Jerseyans, believes in keeping schools safe for LGBTQ+ students, and we will continue working tirelessly to ensure queer and trans youth experience lived and legal equality in New Jersey,” said Albrecht.

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Garden State Equality, the largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organization in New Jersey, lifts up the diverse voices of LGBTQ+ communities through education and advocacy to advance the movement for equality in New Jersey and nationally.

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