A report by the American Sociological Review shows that Americans have not had a clear understanding of how to define sexual orientation or gender identity.
The survey of 1,000 Americans was conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) of the University of Chicago and released this week.
The research, conducted between July and September last year, surveyed 1,003 Americans to learn more about their views on sexuality.
It was released on Wednesday as part of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.
While the survey does not specifically mention transgender people, NORC found that nearly three-quarters of respondents believed that transgender people were at risk of sexual assault.
“This is a huge gap between our general understanding of sexual orientation and what we know about transgender people,” said Nicole Stokes, lead author of the report.
“We need to know what we’re talking about when we’re defining sexual orientation.
This is the first step in addressing that.”
In the survey, responses were divided into three categories: “I don’t know,” “I know but I don’t care” and “I care.”
The second question asked respondents to rate their degree of agreement with statements such as, “I am not ashamed of my sexual orientation,” “My sexual orientation is not an issue for me to discuss” and, “My sex life is my private business.”
According to the study, 49% of respondents felt that sexual orientation was a personal matter that should be decided by a person’s family, friends and society at large, while 38% believed that it was a matter of public opinion and 39% felt that it is a matter that society should decide for itself.
“These findings are consistent with a larger trend that we’ve seen among American adults: They have not fully understood the role of sex in sexual orientation in the context of gender identity and sexual expression,” Dr Stokes said.
“Even when they are asking about their sexual orientation, respondents are still likely to assume that sex is a private and personal matter, even when it is not.”
A recent survey found that the percentage of Americans who believe transgender people should be able to use bathrooms that match their gender identity has jumped to 41%.
It also found that a majority of respondents believe that transgender women should be allowed to use the women’s locker room at women-only facilities.
Dr Stoke said that the survey showed that the American people are not fully understanding the role that sex plays in sexuality.
“They are not as comfortable with the idea that their sexual identity is a social construct and that society has the right to determine what their sexual expression is,” she said.
Dr Jelena Bekovic, co-author of the survey and a doctoral student at the University.
“The survey did not ask respondents if they were happy with their sexual identities, so it is impossible to say that they have fully understood how to identify and define sexual identity.”
In her research, Dr Bekov asked people whether they thought that a transgender person could be a victim of violence.
More than half of the respondents said yes, while less than one-third said they were in favour of it.
She said the survey did show that the majority of people in America do not know that transgender individuals face violence.
“It also shows that most people in the United States do not feel comfortable with sexual orientation being defined by the legal system,” she added.
“If we want to end violence against transgender people and gender nonconforming people, it will take a lot of work, and it will require more education, more visibility, more respect.”
Dr Stakes said that she hoped the survey would encourage more people to learn about the issues of sexual identity and gender expression.
“For many, these issues are deeply personal,” she explained.
“A lot of people are uncomfortable about their sexuality and have never had a discussion about it.
This survey is a good first step, and we need more surveys like this.”
The survey was conducted online and in person in June and July last year.