PolitiFact: Stats show 1 in 300 are transgender

A San Antonio activist tried to make a point about the proposed Texas law governing bathroom access in public schools and other buildings simply by posing with Gov. Greg Abbott.

The photo from Abbott’s re-election kickoff rally in the Alamo City shows Abbott grinning next to “Trans-Woman” Ashley Smith. Smith added this comment with the photo on Facebook: “How will the Potty Police know I’m transgender if the Governor doesn’t?”

That post went viral, and Smith later got our attention when she described the prevalence of Americans who are transgender.

“We’re about 1-in-300 people. We’re all over the place. We’re your friends and your neighbors. Some of us are not immediately obvious as trans,” Smith told the San Antonio Express-News. And the idea that you are going to be able to enforce a bathroom bill, I mean the enforceability is just not there.”

We asked Smith the basis of her 1-in-300 figure. She pointed to a report finding that nationally, about 1.4 million residents were “trans,” Smith said, “which if my math is right, would make us 1 in every 231 people.”

The June 2016 report was issued by the Williams Institute, a UCLA School of Law think tank that says it advances sexual orientation law and public policy through independent research.

The authors, making statistical adjustments to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention phone survey results from 2014, estimated that 0.6 percent of U.S. adults “identify as transgender.” The report went on: “This figure is double the estimate that utilized data from roughly a decade ago and implies that an estimated 1.4 million adults in the U.S. identify as transgender.”

In 2011, an institute researcher, Gary Gates, had estimated, based partly on surveys taken in Massachusetts and California, that 0.3 percent of U.S. adults identified as transgender.

The U. S. Census Bureau hasn’t estimated the number of Americans identifying as transgender. But we turned to its population estimates to gauge the institute’s latest figures. As of July 2014, the bureau says, the U.S. was home to 318 million residents including 245 million adults. Applying the institute’s estimate that 0.6 percent of adults identify as transgender delivers a subtotal of 1.5 million. That’s about 1.8 in 300.

For an estimate of younger Americans identifying as transgender, Smith told us, she relied on a January institute report similarly starting from federal surveys. That report says researchers estimate that 0.7 percent of U.S. minors aged 13 to 17, tallied at about 150,000 people, are transgender, which breaks out to about 2.1 in 300 individuals in the age group.

We asked Lloyd Potter, the Texas state demographer, to review the institute’s 2016 report. Potter said that his read suggests that from 0.36 percent to 0.95 percent of the population identifies as transgender, so 1 in 300, or 0.3 percent, “is a little low,” he said.

Potter explained that institute researchers applied characteristics including race and ethnicity, age cohorts and educational attainment provided by individuals who responded affirmatively to the CDC survey question to produce its estimates of adults in each state who might identify as transgender, with all the state estimates aggregated to a U.S. estimate.

Potter went on: “It is likely that there is underreporting among those who do identify as transgender in those 19 states which would suggest the estimate is on the low end.”

Our ruling:

Smith said transgender residents make up “about 1-in-300 people, we’re all over the place, we’re your friends and your neighbors.”

There’s no direct national count of individuals identifying as transgender, but recent analyses rooted in federal survey results support estimates of 1.8 in 300 adults and 2.1 in 300 minors.

We rate the claim True.

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