U.S. Transgender Survey Shows Troubling Rates of Harassment, Discrimination and Violence
Today, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) released the largest survey of transgender people ever conducted. The findings reveal significant disparities between transgender people and the rest of the U.S. population across a range of categories. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) examined the experiences of transgender people across the United States, with 27,715 respondents from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. military bases overseas. The USTS serves as a follow-up to the groundbreaking 2008-2009 National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), which has been integral in shifting how the public and policymakers view transgender people and the challenges they face.
The findings expose disturbing patterns of mistreatment and discrimination, as well as startling disparities between transgender people and the general population regarding the most basic elements of life such as finding a job, having a place to live, accessing appropriate medical care, and enjoying the support of family and community.
“Despite achieving some significant policy advances and increased visibility over the past few years, transgender people continue to face enormous obstacles in almost every area of their lives. Discrimination and violence threaten transgender people’s ability to have even the basics: food, a place to sleep, or a job,” commented NCTE executive director Mara Keisling. “This survey demonstrates that there is a lot of work ahead to achieve simple parity and full equality for transgender people.”
Survey respondents reported that they experienced harassment and violence at alarmingly high rates. Nearly half (47%) of respondents have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. The findings also paint a troubling picture of the psychological and physical wellbeing of many transgender people. A staggering 39% of respondents were currently experiencing serious psychological distress, compared with only 5% of the U.S. population. Among the starkest findings is that 40% of respondents have attempted suicide in their lifetime—nearly nine times the attempted suicide rate in the U.S. population (4.6%).
The survey also reveals large economic disparities. Nearly one-third (29%) of transgender respondents were living in poverty, compared to 14% in the U.S. population. A major contributor to the high rate of poverty is respondents’ 15% unemployment rate—three times higher that of the U.S. population at the time of the survey (5%). Respondents were also far less likely to own a home, with only 16% of respondents reporting home ownership, compared to 63% of the U.S. population. Nearly one-third (30%) of respondents have been homeless at some point in their lifetime, and 12% were homeless in the year prior to completing the survey. These inequalities were most pronounced for transgender people of color, who were up to three times as likely as the U.S. population to be living in poverty. The unemployment rate among transgender people of color was generally four times higher than the U.S. unemployment rate.
“We hope that the survey’s breadth and in-depth examination of transgender life in the United States will serve as an important resource that prompts dialogue and leads to a greater understanding and acceptance of transgender people,” added Sandy James, the survey’s lead author.