The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have just released the results of a groundbreaking new study–“Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.” The study surveyed 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming people from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The key findings of the study reveal that transgender and gender non-conforming Americans “face injustice at every turn.”
From their childhood homes to their schools to their doctors—survey respondents experienced discrimination at staggering rates. 78% of respondents who expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity while in school experienced harassment; 35% were victim of physical assault.
Transgender and gender non-conforming Americans often find themselves at risk in employment situations. An astonishingly high percentage (90%) of respondents reported having faced harassment, mistreatment, or discrimination on the job while 26% lost a job as a result of their gender identity or gender non-conformity. Survey respondents experienced unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color reaching up to four times the national rate. 16% of respondents had been compelled to work in the underground economy for income (such as doing sex work or selling drugs).
Housing is another area where transgender and gender non-conforming people face difficulty. One-fifth of survey respondents experienced homelessness at some point in their lives while 2% were currently homeless. Respondents who have experienced homelessness were highly vulnerable to mistreatment in public settings, police abuse, and negative health outcomes. In fact, 22% of respondents who have interacted with police reported harassment, with much higher rates reported by people of color, and 46% reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
Transgender and gender non-conforming Americans have unique health needs, and yet competent care is tough to find. 50% of survey respondents reported having to teach their medical providers about transgender care. 19% had been refused medical care due to their transgender or gender non-conforming status while 28% of respondents postponed medical care due to discrimination.
In the face of extensive institutional discrimination, family acceptance had a protective affect against many threats to well-being. 43% of respondents maintained most of their family bonds while 57% experienced significant family rejection. Those respondents who were accepted by their families were 17% less likely to experience homelessness, 8% less likely to perform sex work, and 19% less likely to attempt suicide.
The results of this study reveal a harsh reality: it is part of social and legal convention in the US 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. Not only does this report give us a true 360-degree view of the experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming Americans, it also calls us to action. We must work together—members of the LGBT community and allies—to eliminate the discrimination, harassment, and injustice that transgender people face, and we must begin now.