The U.S. Transgender Survey questioned 28,000 trans people anonymously online. It is to date the most comprehensive survey on the experiences of being transgender in America.
The survey is an initiative of the Washington D.C. based National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE).
Families, friends, partners, lovers, and allies of transgender individuals won’t be surprised by the findings that transgender people face extraordinary struggles and discrimination, especially related to employment and mental health issues.
“We have already known that these are issues . . . now we actually have a tool that we can reference to [say] these are the numbers,” NCTE executive director Mara Keisling told The Guardian newspaper. “That can be a useful instrument for creating transformative change in the lives of transgender people.”
Almost a third of respondents were living in poverty and the unemployment rate was fifteen percent. In perspective, this is twice as many trans people living in poverty than the American average, and unemployment is three times the national rate. Almost a third have been homeless.
Most distressing are the reports for suicide. Forty percent said they had attempted suicide in their life, which is nine times the national average. Seven percent attempted suicide in the past year, which is ten times as many people as the national average.
I am grateful to the NCTE for conducting this important survey. They plan to survey every five years. Just by gathering information that has traditionally been omitted or evaded, this is a proactive step towards eliminating the struggles unique to transgender people. If we haven’t documented the data, we don’t have the facts we need to work with. Furthermore, comparing the data every five years will allow us to see which areas are improving and which need focus.
I admit I’ve been a little annoyed at all sides of the “bathroom issue.” I am 100% for the safety of transgender and gender questioning children and adults who are vulnerable and need a place to do their business, but I felt that the politicization of this issue has been a distraction from other serious issues that my trans friends face, like depression and being excluded from different aspects of life, finding a job, as well as loneliness in friendship and love.
To my surprise, the surveyors pointed to this in their reports. Time Magazine actually called their article “Beyond Bathrooms: Inside the Largest Ever Survey of Transgender People in America.” They quote director Keisling: “Really every minute we spend talking about [bathrooms] . . . we’re not talking about the problems in real people’s lives. We’re not talking about the economic marginalization . . . We’re not talking about people being alienated from their faith communities and from their families.”
I encourage you to read the report and talk with your trans girlfriends, wives, and friends about the issues it brings to light. Work together on how you might best bring this vital information to those around you. Those allies who support your date and your relationship will benefit greatly from having the survey to reference as they will be armed with data to support their views when it comes up.
Read the NCTE survey. It includes the questionnaire used, details about the methodology, and a variety of subjects like experiences at school, identity documents, income, immigration detention, violence, military service, sex work, airport security, and faith communities.
Let us know what you think!