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The Results of the Largest U.S. Transgender Survey Ever

Plus, how you can help.

12.22.16
Arm with hand holding Transgender pride flag. Nails painted red wearing a pink blue white pride wristband.

On December 9th, the National Center for Transgender Equality released its 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. With almost 28,000 respondents, it’s the largest survey of its type in U.S. history, and puts hard and fast numbers against the issues facing the trans community. The results paint a grim picture for what it’s currently like to live in America as a transgender person.

“The findings from the survey are extensive,” reports GLAAD, “and reveal deeply concerning patterns of mistreatment and discrimination associated with startling disparities in employment, home ownership, access to medical and healthcare and support networks. The survey also confirms alarmingly high rates of harassment and violence towards transgender people.”

At 15%, transgender unemployment rates are triple those of the U.S. population. 30% of the respondents who’d held jobs in the year prior to the survey reported being fired, denied a promotion or discriminated against as a result of their identity. At the time of the survey, 29% of the respondents were living in poverty (versus 14% in the general U.S. population) and 30% of transgender people reported they’d experienced homelessness. Poverty rates for transgender people of color were even worse.

Let’s talk about kids: Over half of students reported being verbally harassed (24% physically, 13% sexually) and 17% reported they withdrew from school due to severe mistreatment. A tenth of those who’d shared their gender identity with their family experienced actual violence. Around the same number were kicked out of their homes. See previous statistic about homelessness.

Without basic shelter and safety, health becomes a concern. A third of respondents reported at least one negative, discriminatory experience by a health care provider. A fourth said they’d avoided going to a health care provider within the past year due to fears of being mistreated. Transgender HIV rates are five times higher than the U.S. population.

At 40%, almost half of respondents reported they’d attempted suicide (compared to the U.S. rate of 4.6%). Worse: 7% of respondents had attempted suicide in the past year, compared to the the US rate of 0.6%. “When the data is examined in-depth,” reports GLAAD. “It is clear that all of these disparities have a much greater impact on transgender people of color and undocumented trans people.”

Sandy James, the survey’s lead author, hopes these numbers convey the weight of the current transgender struggle to those who aren’t experiencing it themselves. “We hope that the breadth and depth of this survey,” he said, “which exceeds any previous examination of transgender life in the United States, prompts greater understanding and acceptance of transgender people.”

These numbers ought to serve as a reminder that progress requires our attention and efforts. Just last night, North Carolina failed to repeal a discriminatory bathroom law requiring transgender people to use the facility that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate. That issues like bathroom use are still dividing lawmakers only stands to highlight the shallow depth to which transgender life is understood in America. We have to get these numbers out and heard.


In the three weeks following the election of Donald Trump, the American Civil Liberties Union received $15 million in donations. Chief development officer Mark Wier told The Washington Post the sum was unprecedented in ACLU history. The same went for the Anti-Defamation League, Planned Parenthood and The Trevor Project. The number of donations, calls, emails and letters all soared to new heights. If this survey moves you to donate or volunteer, here are some organizations that could use your help:

Donate to the National Center for Transgender Equality
Donate to The Trevor Project
Donate to Transgender Law Center
Donate to Trans Youth Equality
Donate to Trans Lifeline
Donate to Trans Women of Color Collective

For more, check out GLAAD’s full list of transgender resources.

Image via iStock.

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  • Janet

    Thank you for posting and sharing this important report and including ways for us to help. As a college faculty member with a number of transgender students in my classes, I am always looking for resources to help raise awareness of how my students survive and thrive in spite of the barriers we put in front of them.