When the Supreme Court of the United States rules on the issue of same-sex marriage later this year, many of the advocacy organizations and groups nationwide that have fought for a resolution to the issue are hopeful that LGBTQ equality will take a giant leap forward. However two reports released February 18 by the Denver-based LGBT think tank The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) starkly demonstrate that the transgender community remains snared in disproportionate inequity, discrimination and oppression in almost all areas of American lifeemployment, housing, K-12 and higher education, healthcare, pensions, the criminal justice system, immigration, obtaining credit, loans, financial aid or identification documents and even marriage.
The ramifications to the community in terms of poverty, societal attitudes and manifestations of violence against transgender individuals have been bluntly illustrated with the deaths of eight transgender women across the United States in the first seven weeks of 2015.
The data, stories and issues raised in the reports entitled Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans and Paying and Unfair Price: the Penalty for Being Transgender in America were assembled and co-authored by MAP alongside the Center for American Progress, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), and the Transgender Law Center, in partnership with Center for Community Change, Center for Popular Democracy, GLAAD, National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association.
Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans details each sphere of society in which transgender Americans face daily discrimination and offers brief recommendations on a local, state and federal level. The figures are sobering.
The report states that one-in-five transgender people have been refused a home or an apartment with laws protecting them on the books in only 18 states and D.C. In schools, 40 percent of gender non-conforming youth have reported some level of harassment with only 13 states offering laws against discrimination because of their gender identity. An astonishing 78 percent of transgender individuals reported being "mistreated or discriminated against at work" while up to 47 percent noted being unfairly denied a job at all. In terms of income, the report cited National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) figures which stated transgender Americans are "four times more likely to have a household income under $10,000 per year than the population as a whole."
Within the criminal justice system, the report notes that one-in-six transgender people will have been incarcerated at some point in their lives. For Black transgender individuals that figure stands at 47 percent. "Reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics find that 35 percent of transgender prisoners report experiencing sexual abuse in the last twelve months, compared to 4 percent of all prisoners," the document states while indicating that the disproportionate numbers of low-income transgender people has led to a far greater frequency of police interactions and "higher levels police harassment, imprisonment and violence."
Unfair Price: the Penalty for Being Transgender in America examines that poverty in greater detail. The report lists what it calls two "primary failures of law' as the reason "transgender people in the United States face clear financial penalties and are left economically vulnerable"pervasive discrimination and a lack of clear legal protections along with hostile educational environments.
The results are denial of employment or harassment while on the job, lower wages, denial of housing and even difficulty accessing homeless shelters, inordinate healthcare costs due to discrimination by insurance companies and healthcare providers and increased difficulty obtaining credit such as a credit card or student loan.
MAP Policy Specialist and Policy Researcher Naomi Goldberg was the lead author on that report while LGBT Movement and Policy Analyst Heron Greenesmith piloted the creation of Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans.
Goldberg told Windy City Times that both reports received their genesis from earlier and exhaustive research released by MAP detailing issues facing the LGBT community as a whole. "Beginning last year, we starting releasing issue-specific guides," she said. "Heron released one about the disparities that bisexual face in this country. Often both they and the transgender community are ignored when talking about LGBT people. So this guide about transgender [individuals] is meant to be used as an entry point for people to understand the key areas in which transgender people face challenges."
Goldberg hopes that the reports will be used in multiple areas and across a spectrum of audiences including the media, policy makers and advocacy groups. "It's meant to be another articulation of why protections are needed," she said. "As we see the transgender community gain visibility, a lot of people are coming to understand what it means to be transgender in a new way and I think this guide can be an easily accessible tool for people to talk about the real challenges transgender people face. There's a real opportunity here to articulate the concerns and the needs of the transgender community that is accessible and demystifying."
As a cisgender woman, Goldberg acknowledged that as she began to piece the report together she was surprised at the sheer breadth of discrimination against the transgender community. "It was the ways in which discrimination affects all aspects of life," she said. "In my opinion this is where the work really needs to be focused. We need to understand how to talk about the issues that transgender community face, how to provide recommendations to advance them in the policy sphere and also look at movement capacityorganizations that are doing the work and how to support [them]."
However Goldberg stressed that lack of data concerning the transgender community remains a huge obstacle in creating policy change. "We can probably say that the 2020 census will not be including questions of gender identity and expression," she stated. "There's going to be another fielding of the Transgender Discrimination Survey which uncovered and provided all of us with statistics to pair with people sharing their own stories. Gathering the data is going to be the long game but that is the path forward."
"It's not enough to say 'we're done' when we pass laws," Goldberg added. "This is something the LGBT movement post marriage-equality is going to have to address.
For more information about MAP please visit:
Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans is available at www.lgbtmap.org/understanding-issues-facing-transgender-americans .
Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being Transgender in America can be found at www.lgbtmap.org/unfair-price-transgender .