Every day, transgender and gender non-conforming people bear the brunt of social and economic marginalization due to discrimination based on their gender identity or expression. Advocates confront this reality regularly working with transgender people who have lost housing, been fired from jobs, experienced mistreatment and violence, or been unable to access the health care they need. Too often, policymakers, service providers, the media and society at large have dismissed or discounted the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and a lack of hard data on the scope of anti-transgender discrimination has hampered the work to make substantive policy changes to address these needs.
So begins the introduction to the report Injustice at Every Turn: A report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which was jointly released Friday by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality. At 222 pages and 43 megs, it is unlikely that too many people will investigate more than the Executive Summary, which indeed is where early reporters opted to stop. But it is Saturday and there is wintry mix expected, so here I am.
First of all, I'll point out that several earlier reports were generated by the same 2008 survey, as I wrote about in The State of Our Health and Homeless for the Holidays. But this report goes beyond housing, health and health care, to cover also employment, education, public accommodation, family life, criminal justice, and government identity documents.
In virtually every setting, the data underscores the urgent need for policymakers and community leaders to change their business-as-usual approach and confront the devastating consequences of anti-transgender bias.
63% of the 6456 valid participants in the survey had experienced a serious act of discrimination, including the loss of a job due to bias, eviction due to bias, school bullying and/or harassment of sufficient severity to cause the respondent to drop out, teacher bullying, physical assault due to bias, bias-instigated sexual assault, homelessness because of gender identity or expression, loss of relationship with partner or children, denial of medical service, or incarceration for gender-influenced reasons. Twenty-three percent of respondents experienced least three of the above life-disrupting events, which the report calls a catastrophic level of discrimination. Your author can list four of them: physical assault, loss of relationship, denial of medical service, and incarceration.
Of the respondents, the researchers labeled 75% as transgender and 25% as gender-nonconforming. On most items, both groups generated numbers. The researchers point out that the data, collected during a 6-month period in 2008, is not from a randomly generated sample, and therefore it is not appropriate for generalizing to all gender-variant people. Responses which indicated that the respondent was not taking the survey in earnest and/or providing illogical answers were eliminated. 1065 respondents were eliminated either in this fashion or because they did not sign the consent form.
government actors that have the resources for random sampling have failed to include questions on transgender identity in their population-based research.
The research was based at Penn State and did go through an IRB process.
60% of respondents were assigned male at birth. Only 26% identified as male or men at the time of the survey. 65% strongly identified with the term transgender, while 26% somewhat identified with it. Ten percent rejected the word as a descriptor. California, by itself, was the home of 15% of the respondents. The West was home to 32% of respondents when California was included. The next largest portions, both 21%, of the respondents resided in the Mid-Atlantic and Mid-West regions. The only region in which the sample was unrepresentative of the general population was the Sotuth, which host 32% of the people but only 18% of the sample. 31% of the respondents claimed they were on disability. Only 3% were HIV+, although 8% were unaware of their HIV status. 83% of the sample were white, 6% latino/a, 6% black, 6% American Indian, 3% Asian and 1% Arab or middle-eastern (multiple answers were permitted: 11%, including the vast majority of the American Indians, of the sample claimed to be multi-racial).
4% had a Doctoral degree, 3% a Professional degree, and 13% a Master's degree. 27% topped out at a Bachelors degree and 8% had earned an Associate degree. An additional 28% claimed "some college". 4% had not graduated from high school. 49% of respondents had attended school as a trans or gender non-conforming person.
46% of the sample had full-time employment, 16% a part-time job, 8% multiple jobs, and 4% were self-employed. 14% were unemployed, 8% not working because of disability, 20% were students, 7% retired, 2% homemakers. Multiple responses were allowed.
Household income numbers revealed that 15% were at less than $10,000, 12% between $10,000 and $19,999, 12% between $20K and $30K, 11% between $30K and $40K...etc...declining to 4% between $90K and $100K, with a spike of 9% at $100K to $150K and only 5% with more that $150K. 36% were single, 27% partnered (22% married, 1% in civil unions...listed separately from partnered), 3% separated, 11% divorced, and 1% widowed.
96% were US citizens, 2% documented non-citizens and 2% undocumented non-citizens. 89% reregistered voters and 20% had past military service (2% had been denied enlistment).
21% identified as gay or lesbian, 23% bisexual, 20% queer, 21% heterosexual, 4% asexual and 11% other.
Some interesting data: It has been a stereotype that economic circumstances have caused many in our community to enter the underground economy of sex work and/or selling drugs. But 84% of the sample had never done so. 11% of the sample reported having done sex work for income purposes. 8% had sold drugs.
One estimate is that 1% of women in the US have engaged in sex work.
While the sample shows a higher educational attainment in general than the population at large (14%of the general population hanse high school degree and 31% only a high school degree, with only 55% with at least some college or as much as a graduate degree, while 87% of the sample is in the later category), respondents suffered higher levels of poverty, incarceration, homelessness, and poor health than would be expected of people with this educational level. Apparently anti-transgender easily trumps educational attainment.
A word about identification:
When asked if they strongly identified with the following descriptors, the respondents answered as indicated (multiple answers were allowed):
transgender = 65%
MTF (male-to-female) = 46%
Transsexual = 46%
Gender non-conforming = 32%
FTM (female-to-male) = 26%
Genderqueer = 22%
Two-spirit = 15%
Cross-dresser = 15%
Androgynous = 14%
Third gender = 10%
Feminine male = 10%
Masculine female or butch = 8%
Intersex = 6%
Drag performer (King/Queen) = 3%
AG or Aggressive = 2%
Other = 17%
Additional write-in responses were transdyke, mahuwahine, FTX, boi, questioning, stud, both-neither, princess, bender and a few others.
This remarkable descriptive variety speaks to the dynamic, evolving diversity of gender expression within transgender and gender non-conforming communities.
For the purposes of the report, the 75% of the respondents who strongly identified with transgender, MTG, transsexual, or FTM were cast into the group labeled transgender and the remainder were labeled "gender non-conforming". This latter group was heavier on people in the female-to-male spectrum.
Of the 60% of the sample who were assigned male at birth, 87% currently identify as women, at least part-time. Of the 40% assigned female at birth, 80% currently identify as men, at least part-time.
Gender nonconforming was a more popular identity for yonder people (34% of GNC respondents from 18-24 and 59% from 25-44, but only 5% 45-54 and 2% 55-64 and 1% 65+). MTFs were 11% 18-24, 44% 25-44, 24% 45-54, 18% 55-64, and 3% 65+. FTMs were 16% 18-24, 65% 25-44, 8% 45-54, 2% 55-64 and 0% 65+. In the All-transgender category, the percentages were 16%, 52%, 18%, 12%, and 2% respectively.
55% of the sample reported living in a different gender than the one usually identified with their birth sex. 27% said they were not living full-time in their desired gender but hoped to do so some day. 18% expressed no interest in doing so.
61% of respondents reported having "medically transitioned" (surgery or hormones), while only 33% had surgically transitioned. A sizable number of those on hormones are still living part-time in their previous genders.
It is important to keep in mind that almost all transition-related care is paid for out of pocket, without any insurance reimbursement. Thus, appropriate medical treatment is highly dependent on an individual’s ability to pay for it. The desire to medically transition and the ability to afford to do so are entirely different and should not be conflated or confused.
Under 5% of transwomen transitioned before they were 18, 18% between the ages of 18 and 24, 40% between 25 and 44, 25% between 45 and 54 and 12% when they were over 55. For transmen, the numbers were 8%, 46%, 41%, 5% and 1%.
That is, transmen generally transition quite a bit earlier than transwomen.
Can people tell you are transgender/gender non-conforming if you don't tell them:
Always = 6%
Most of the time = 16%
Sometimes = 27%
Occasionally = 29%
Never = 21%
For the purposes of the study, these categories were collapsed as follows:
Visual non-conformers = 22%
Somewhat visually conforming = 56%
Visual conformers = 21%
59% of the respondents claimed to be "generally out" about their identity, with the remaining 41% being "generally not out".
12% never tell anyone they identify as transgender or gender non-conforming, 68% have told close friends, 42% have told family, 26% have told casual friends, 22% are out at work, and 15% will tell anyone.
The common assumption that gender identity and sexual orientation form the basis for two distinct communities obscures the reality, documented here, that the majority of transgender people — at least in our sample — are lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer-identified. While debate in the LGBT community often draws clear lines of demarcation between the LGB and the T, our findings suggest that there is considerable overlap.