The past few years have seen some progress for transgender people. Not only are they now much more visible in media thanks to TV shows like Transparent and Orange Is the New Black, but different levels of government have also taken steps to protect them from discrimination in the workplace, housing, schools, and other settings. And while North Carolina gained national attention for passing an anti-transgender bathroom law, the governor behind that measure just lost his reelection bid — in large part because of his anti-trans law.
But as trans people continue to make progress, it should not be lost that there is still a lot of work to be done.
On Thursday, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) finally reported the results of the biggest survey ever of trans people in the US. The survey, conducted in the summer of 2015, reached nearly 28,000 trans people from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and US military bases overseas.
It is an exhaustive report, with people answering questions about virtually every aspect of their lives. But the general takeaway is that trans people as a whole suffer from vast disparities in all aspects of their lives.
Here were some of the biggest findings, taken from the report:
- “One in ten (10%) of those who were out to their immediate family reported that a family member was violent towards them because they were transgender, and 8% were kicked out of the house because they were transgender.”
- “In the year prior to completing the survey, 46% of respondents were verbally harassed and 9% were physically attacked because of being transgender. During that same time period, 10% of respondents were sexually assaulted, and nearly half (47%) were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.”
- “In the year prior to completing the survey, 30% of respondents who had a job reported being fired, denied a promotion, or experiencing some other form of mistreatment in the workplace due to their gender identity or expression, such as being verbally harassed or physically or sexually assaulted at work.”
- “Nearly one-third (29%) of respondents were living in poverty, compared to 14% in the U.S. population. A major contributor to the high rate of poverty is likely respondents’ 15% unemployment rate — three times higher than the unemployment rate in the U.S. population at the time of the survey (5%).”
- “While respondents in the USTS sample overall were more than twice as likely as the U.S. population to be living in poverty, people of color, including Latino/a (43%), American Indian (41%), multiracial (40%), and Black (38%) respondents, were up to three times as likely as the U.S. population (14%) to be living in poverty.”
- “A staggering 39% of respondents experienced serious psychological distress in the month prior to completing the survey, compared with only 5% of the U.S. population. Among the starkest findings is that 40% of respondents have attempted suicide in their lifetime—nearly nine times the attempted suicide rate in the U.S. population (4.6%).”
- “In the year prior to completing the survey, one-third (33%) of those who saw a health care provider had at least one negative experience related to being transgender, such as being verbally harassed or refused treatment because of their gender identity.”
As NCTE concluded, “The findings reveal disturbing patterns of mistreatment and discrimination and startling disparities between transgender people in the survey and the U.S. population when it comes to the most basic elements of life, such as finding a job, having a place to live, accessing medical care, and enjoying the support of family and community. Survey respondents also experienced harassment and violence at alarmingly high rates.”
There was some good news: Most trans people reported that those closest to them were broadly supportive. “More than half (60%) of respondents who were out to their immediate family reported that their family was supportive of them as a transgender person. More than two-thirds (68%) of those who were out to their coworkers reported that their coworkers were supportive. Of students who were out to their classmates, more than half (56%) reported that their classmates supported them as a transgender person.”
And NCTE noted that the much larger pool of respondents — nearly 28,000 people, more than four times the number of respondents to the 2008-’09 survey — suggests that trans people are much more willing and able to talk about their lives.
Still, the reality is that this particular segment of the LGBTQ population faces massive disparities in many, many respects — and that suggests the nation isn’t doing enough to support trans people.
If you or anyone you know is threatening suicide, please seek help: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255; the Trevor Project, which helps LGBTQ youth, can be reached at 866-488-7386; and the Trans Lifeline can be reached at 877-565-8860.