This post also appeared on the Good Vibrations Magazine.
It isn’t news that people who step outside the gender binary face violence, prejudice, and discrimination. But for the first time, there’s a large-scale study that researchers, policy makers, and equality advocates can point to for proof.
Injustice at Every Turn is an impressive accomplishment by the he National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF). The researchers surveyed 6540 transgender and gender non-conforming people in every US state, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s the largest study of its kind (the former record holder had 700 participants) so it offers a wider and more detailed view than ever before.
Some of the important findings include:
- While discrimination was common in all groups, transgender people of color experienced more (and worse) than white people, in general.
- Poverty has a big impact on gender non-conforming people, who were 4 times as likely to have a household income less than $10,000 per year.
- 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, as compared to 1.6% of the general population. This other report shows that lesbian, gay and bisexual young adults are also more likely to face depression and suicide than the rest of the population, but that having a supportive peer network is highly protective. I’d expect something similar for trans and gender queer people, too.
- Gender non-conforming youth are much more likely to drop out of school- 15% do. That’s not a surprise when 78% of them face harassment and 12% experience sexual violence.
- But it’s not just schools that are problematic. Survey respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed, 90% either dealt with workplace harassment & discrimination or were closeted to avoid it, and 47% had been fired, not hired, or denied a promotion because of their gender expression.
- On top of all that, 16% had worked in the “underground economy” (such as selling drugs or sex work) to survive. 19% had been refused a home or apartment and of the folks who had been homeless, 55% were harassed by shelter staff, 29% were turned away, and 22% were sexually assaulted by residents or staff.
- There are also numbers for how many folks were assaulted, harassed or denied equal treatment in stores, by police, medical professionals, judges, and lawyers.
- Overall, 63% reported serious discrimination (events that would have a major impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to sustain themselves financially or emotionally) and 23% reported at least three such events.
I’d like to quote the conclusion from the summary in full because I don’t think there’s a better way to say it:
It is part of social and legal convention in the United States to discriminate against, ridicule, and abuse transgender and gender non-conforming people within foundational institutions such as the family, schools, the workplace and health care settings, every day. Instead of recognizing that the moral failure lies in society’s unwillingness to embrace different gender identities and expressions, society blames transgender and gender nonconforming people for bringing the discrimination and violence on themselves.
Nearly every system and institution in the United States, both large and small, from local to national, is implicated by this data. Medical providers and health systems, government agencies, families, businesses and employers, schools and colleges, police departments, jail and prison systems—each of these systems and institutions is failing daily in its obligation to serve transgender and gender non-conforming people, instead subjecting them to mistreatment ranging from commonplace disrespect to outright violence, abuse and the denial of human dignity. The consequences of these widespread injustices are human and real, ranging from unemployment and homelessness to illness and death.
This report is a call to action for all of us, especially for those who pass laws and set policies and practices, whose action or continued inaction will make a significant difference between the current climate of discrimination and violence and a world of freedom and equality. And everyone else, from those who drive buses or teach our children to those who sit on the judicial bench or write prescriptions, must also take up the call for human rights for transgender and gender non-conforming people, and confront this pattern of abuse and injustice.
We must accept nothing less than a complete elimination of this pervasive inhumanity; we must work continuously and strenuously together for justice.
If you’re cisgender, stand up and speak out. Help pass non-discrimination bills. Get yourself educated and then teach others. Get over your transphobia. And treat people with respect, no matter what their gender identity or presentation is.