Anecdotally, the evidence for widespread discrimination against transgender people has existed for a long, long time. But in February, the National Center for Transgender Equality paired with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to release a scientific survey of thousands of American transgender and gender non-conforming people in what they call the “first 360-degree picture of discrimination” against these groups.
The result is called “Injustice at Every Turn,” and shows the many ways in which transgender and gender non-conforming people are negatively affected by a variety of issues including structural racism, poverty and employment discrimination.
The report doesn’t mince words: Researchers found that “instead of recognizing that the moral failure lies in society’s unwillingness to embrace different gender identities and expressions, society blames transgender and gender non-conforming people for bringing the discrimination and violence on themselves.”
Researchers also assert that the source of this “moral failure” is likely to be foundational institutions like churches, schools and workplaces. And the findings of “Injustice at Every Turn” back up their powerful statements.
While the experience of discrimination was “pervasive” throughout the 6,450-person sample, researchers found that structural racism, combined with anti-transgender bias, was “especially devastating.” Transgender people who are also African-American are, for example, far more likely than white transgender people to be victims of police brutality.
Measuring poverty, researchers found that their transgender respondents were nearly four times more likely to live in extreme poverty — making less than $10,000 per year — than their fellow Americans.
Transgender people are also twice as likely as to be unemployed, and the numbers are even more discouraging for transgender people of color: They experience unemployment at up to four times the national unemployment rate.
Forty-one percent of the survey respondents reported attempting suicide, a number researchers called “staggering” when compared to the 1.6 percent of the general population that does so. Transgender people who are unemployed, bullied or the victims of sexual assault were more likely to have attempted suicide.
School is not a safe place for many transgender children and teens, researchers found. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they’d been harassed at school, and a sixth reported leaving a school because of their inability to escape harassment, assault and sexual violence.
At work, 90 percent of survey respondents said they’d been harassed, mistreated or discriminated against or tried to hide their transgender status or non-conformity in an attempt to avoid it. Nearly half said they’d been fired, not hired or denied a promotion. Unemployed respondents had more than double the HIV infection rate and double the rate of drinking and drug use.
Researchers found that one-fifth of the respondents had been homeless at some point in their lives, and more than half of those who’d tried to seek assistance at a shelter reported being harassed by staff or other residents.
American Indian transgender people were most likely to say they’d been denied a home or apartment.
Updated and accurate identification is difficult to obtain for transgender people — one fifth reported being able to update all of their records with their new gender. A third had no records updated or accurate. Forty-one percent of transgender people live without identification that matches their gender identity.
Going to the police for help is reported to be an uncomfortable prospect for 46 percent of the survey respondents, and a fifth of the respondents reported harassment by the police. Race complicated this further: 38 and 36 percent of black and multi-racial respondents reported harassment by police.
Doctors also appear to have little experience with transgender needs, with half of the survey respondents reporting they had to educate their own medical providers about transgender care.
Transgender people have HIV at four times the national average. Smoking, drug and alcohol use are more prevalent among transgender and gender non-conforming people.
Despite all this, researchers called transgender people “resilient,” noting that after transitioning, more than three-fourths of respondents felt better at work. Transgender people are far more likely than people in the general population to return to school between the ages of 25 and 44.
Researchers concluded with a “call to action” to eliminate the “pervasive inhumanity” displayed in the survey results, noting that “action or continued inaction will make a significant difference between the current climate of discrimination and violence and a world of freedom and equality.”
— Andrea Grimes