The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) just released a report on discrimination against trans and gender-noncomforming people, and the results are (predictably) horrifying. The report is based on the largest survey of trans and gender-nonconforming people ever taken in the United States, with 6,450 participants. Among the key findings:
-Survey respondents were nearly four times more likely to live in extreme poverty (household incomes of less than $10,000 per year)
-Respondents of color were especially at risk for discrimination (although discrimination was widely reported by respondents of all backgrounds). African-American trans and gender-nonconforming people reported the most severe discrimination.
-Health care access is a major problem. One in four respondents reported being HIV positive. Nineteen percent reported being refused care because of their trans identities, or non-conforming gender presentation. African-American respondents reported even higher numbers of health care discrimination.
-Survey respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed compared to the population as a whole. Half of respondents reported workplace harassment or mistreatment, and a quarter had been fired because of their gender identity or expression.
-Nineteen percent of respondents reported being refused a home or apartment; 11% reported being evicted from their home because of their gender identity or expression. One in five survey respondents experienced homelessness.
-Twenty-two percent of respondents reported feeling uncomfortable asking law enforcement for assistance.
-Forty-one percent of survey respondents reported attempting suicide. Only 1.6% of the general population has reported attempting suicide. The rate of attempted suicide among trans people and gender-nonconforming people is significantly higher even than the attempted suicide rate of people who are diagnosed with chronic depression.
As Nancy Goldstein says in the American Prospect, it’s crucial that this survey even happened in the first place:
Currently most surveys — including the census and epidemiological studies — contain zero questions about sexual orientation, never mind gender identity and expression. The consequences of not being counted, of being invisible, is that no one knows who constitutes the transgender community, what its members experience, or what their challenges or needs are. The many costs to transgender people include the fact that they are allotted little if any funding or resources on the state or federal level. That’s even true of resources spread within an LGB community that often forgets the “T.”
Much of this discrimination, it’s worth noting, is entirely legal. Trans people are routinely left of out anti-discrimination laws that protect citizens from discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, nationality, etc. And the breadth of problems faced by trans and gender-nonconforming people all tie together: It’s awfully hard to keep a job if you can be legally fired for being trans and if your co-workers routinely harass and discriminate against you; it’s hard to stay above the poverty line if you’re not employed; it’s hard to avoid homelessness if you’re living in extreme poverty and if landlords routinely refuse to rent to you; it’s hard to enforce even existing anti-discrimination laws if you don’t trust the police (and for good reason — twenty-two percent of respondents reported being harassed by law enforcement); it’s hard to stay healthy when health care providers refuse to care for you.
This kind of discrimination, bias and hate kills. Trans and gender-nonconforming people attempt suicide at astounding rates. When health care providers refuse to help, patients die (and trans people have died because doctors and emergency workers didn’t do their jobs). When people are desperate for a place to live and for food to eat, and when above-the-board employers won’t hire them, sometimes the only option is to enter underground economies, which (especially for marginalized populations) can bring with them higher incidences of drug use, higher-risk sexual activity and incarceration — all of which may be factors in higher rates of HIV. And of course, trans and gender non-conforming people aren’t just killed by suicide, poverty, discriminatory medical workers and health issues — they are also sexually and physically assaulted, abused and murdered. Back to Nancy (trigger warning):
There’s a direct link between being able to earn an above-board living, having stable housing, and staying alive. The results of facing continual job discrimination, combined with being refused housing (19 percent) or being evicted (11 percent), and having a nearly 1-in-5 chance of being homeless at some point, are not only painful, stressful, or unhealthy but catastrophic. Those who have been fired due to anti-transgender bias are far more likely to enter the underground economy, where sex work and drug sales expose participants to a range of increased risks, including incarceration and a higher incidence of intravenous drug use and HIV (with rates in the survey at four times the national average). No wonder respondents, when asked to list their policy priorities, threw the biggest numbers (70 percent) behind protection for transgender/gender nonconforming people from discrimination in hiring and at work.
Transgender people often suffer harm from the very systems designed to protect most citizens. Twenty-two percent report being harassed by police, but the problem extends beyond law enforcement. In 1995, D.C. resident Tyra Hunter died from entirely treatable injuries incurred in a car accident. First, the firefighters who arrived at the scene stopped emergency medical treatment once they cut away her clothes to discover male genitalia. (One witness reported hearing a firefighter say, “This bitch ain’t no girl. … It’s a nigger, he got a dick.”) Once they stopped joking around and got her to the emergency room, the doctor refused to treat her. She died there of blunt force trauma and medical negligence. Fifteen years after Hunter’s death, the survey’s numbers still stink: 19 percent of respondents reported being refused care because of their gender identity or expression, with even higher figures for respondents of color. Nearly 3 percent reported being attacked in emergency rooms.
This is despicable. Mainstream American society has created the conditions that harm and sometimes kill trans and gender non-conforming people. Federal bills protecting the most basic human rights of trans people are non-starters. Even “LGBT” groups routinely throw trans rights under the bus to accomplish other parts of their agendas.
Do read the whole report – it’s depressing and heartbreaking, but necessary.
- New Report Shows Trans* People Experience Huge Gaps in Health Care Access by Cara October 25, 2010
- NY Governor Extends Protections to Transgender State Employees by Cara December 16, 2009
- Transgender Woman Beaten By Police and Threatened With Murder in Honduras by Cara February 10, 2009
- The Shape of the Problem by Queen Emily July 3, 2010
- Events in Remebrance of Amanda González-Andújar by Cara April 22, 2010