|Younger millennials were the most likely to support criminal penalties for misgendering, with 44 percent of 25- to 34-year-old respondents in favor and just 31 percent saying misgendering should not be a crime.
But support for criminalizing misgendering was also strong among older millennials and Gen Z, though the younger group was less gung-ho about it:
• Some 38 percent of 35- to 44-year-old respondents said it should be a crime, while 35 percent disagreed.
• Some 33 percent of 18- to 24-year-old respondents said it should be a crime, while 48 percent disagreed.
Among survey respondents overall, 19 percent said misgendering should be criminalized. Nearly two-thirds—65 percent—said it should not be criminalized, while 12 percent neither agreed nor disagreed and 4 percent said they didn’t know.
Calling people by their preferred pronouns is certainly the kind thing to do, just as it is to call people by their preferred name or honorific. Conversely, deliberately misgendering someone is a jerk move.
But the purpose of criminal law isn’t to punish people for being jerks, and it’s a perverted society that thinks everything offensive or bad must be criminalized.
In this particular case, criminalizing misgendering would also run into First Amendment concerns. Forcing someone to use particular pronouns under threat of criminal penalty would be government-compelled speech, which our Constitution frowns upon.
The Newsweek survey results are disturbing, but we may be able to chalk some of it up to social desirability bias. People want to answer survey questions in a way that makes them look good. Asked the pronoun crime question in isolation and the abstract, some respondents may have responded affirmatively as a means to signal disapproval for misgendering people and support for transgender acceptance. Faced with a specific, real-world proposal to criminalize misgendering, perhaps (hopefully!) not quite so many people would be on board.