Online search data has revealed that there are many Americans who wish to understand just what the term "transgender" means.
LGBT issues have become a main conversation topic nationwide since North Carolina passed its much-criticized "bathroom bill" in March. The topic was further emphasized last week when the Obama administration released a directive to public schools about accommodating transgender students in bathrooms that align with their transgender identities.
While the conversation on transgender and LGBT rights have been building for many years, even decades, the recent directive from the U.S. government, signed by the Justice and Education Departments, has caused a surge in public interest on transgenders.
In a recent report, Merriam-Webster revealed that online dictionary searches for the word "transgender" on their website soared 630 percent after the Obama administration announced its directive to public schools in an open letter on Friday, May 13. Apart from directing schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their identities, the letter also contained guidelines for supporting transgender students.
In an interview with Yahoo! News, Merriam-Webster associate editor Emily A. Brewster said that the website has been tracking searches for many years and that while "transgender" is a "frequently looked-up word," it is interesting to see how big news stories such as that of the recent public schools directive affect the frequency of searches for particular words.
"Politics really is the biggest driver," Brewster said. "I think one of the interesting facts about all this is that it's not that people don't know what these mean. It seems they are words that people want to know more about."
According to Brewster, the issues of gender and sexuality are significant parts of the current nationwide cultural conversation and are thus important terms.
"To have a directive like the kind that came from the Obama administration that's directed at all the nation's public schools really brings interest in this particular term to the fore," she said.
According to Merriam-Webster, a transgender is anyone "who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person's sex at birth."