Although it’s well documented that transgender Americans face unique hardships in their day-to-day lives because of their gender identity, a report released this week by the National Center for Transgender Equality is illuminating the sheer breadth and depth of those hardships.
The NCTE’s U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) is the largest and most comprehensive survey ever of transgender people and how their experiences in the world differ from the general U.S. population—and the findings are troubling.
Throughout its topline findings, the USTS data shows that “mistreatment and violence” are pervasive in the transgender community. This violence and mistreatment starts the moment a transgender person begins to live a life consistent with who they are, and is experienced in places that many of us expect to feel the most secure: at work, at school, and with our families.
According to the USTS, twice as many transgender people live in poverty (29%) compared to the rest of the population, and nearly a third reported they had been homeless at some point. This is unsurprising given that 30 percent of employed survey respondents said they had been “fired, denied a promotion, or [experienced] some other form of mistreatment” at work—usually verbal harassment or physical and sexual assault.
Being a transgender student is just as hard as being a transgender employee. Nearly a quarter of transgender students said they were physically attacked at school, while 13 percent said they were sexually assaulted. Seventeen percent said the assault and bullying got so bad it forced them to leave school altogether.
And many transgender people cannot even take refuge from these public attacks with their own friends and families. Ten percent of transgender people who are out said a close family member physically attacked them for it. Nearly half reported that they had been sexually assaulted—a rate that’s double what it is in the general population.
This constant mistreatment leads us to the USTS’s most shocking statistic: 40 percent of transgender people attempt suicide at some point in their lives, a rate that is nine times what it is in the general U.S. population.
These findings make clear the costs of discrimination for transgender people: decreased financial security, poorer physical and mental health—and even death. This is why explicit transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination protections are essential. These protections ensure that transgender people have legal recourse when they experience discrimination in housing, employment or public places—and protections send a message that our transgender friends and neighbors’ lives have equal value.