Transgender Americans are at the center of growing political attacks and national media coverage, but there is little data on their lives and there is a lot of misinformation.
A report released Wednesday aims to change that.
The National Center for Transgender Equality, a national policy nonprofit, has released a preliminary report summarizing the key themes of the upcoming 2022 Transgender in the United States survey. The full report, which does not yet have an expected release date, will provide the most comprehensive look at the lives of transgender Americans since its last release in 2015. Researchers plan to release more data, including state reports, in the coming year.
More than 92,000 respondents participated in the latest U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS), which was conducted from October to December 2022. Participants answered up to 605 questions about their lives, livelihoods, health care and security.
Despite federal efforts to obtain more data on LGBTQ+ people, such as the evolution of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the U.S. Transgender Survey remains the only study capturing the lives of transgender Americans at scale.
“No one is collecting data on trans people in a formal way,” said Jamison Green, a trans health expert and author. “There’s no health tracking. There’s no census data about where we live, who we are and what we’ve been through.”
Preliminary data shows that transgender people continue to face huge economic and health disparities, while a series of anti-trans state laws have caused thousands to flee their homes.
Economic equality has largely not improved despite federal employment protections in the 2019 Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County, which ruled it is illegal to discriminate against workers because of their gender identity or sexual orientation .
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, unemployment among transgender people has increased. In 2015, 15% were unemployed. The 2022 report puts the figure at 18%.
In 2015, NCTE found that 29% of respondents lived in poverty. In this latest survey, that number climbed to 34%.
Many barriers to health care remain or worsen for transgender people. Twenty-six percent of respondents had at least one issue with their insurance company, such as being denied coverage for gender-affirming care or routine care because they were transgender. In 2015, the figure was 25%.
In 2022, 48% of respondents who had seen a health care provider in the past 12 months had at least one negative experience because of their gender identity, such as being denied care, being misgendered, or being treated harshly. In 2015, 33% of respondents said the same.
It’s unclear whether the larger sample size in the new survey had any impact on the increase in discrimination rates. Sandy James, the survey’s lead researcher, said in a statement that his team has not yet completed the necessary analysis to put these comparisons into context — analyzes they plan to do in a future report.
There are some bright spots in the data. Fewer transgender people were verbally or physically assaulted in bathrooms in 2022 compared to 2015, despite a rebound in bathroom costs. Family acceptance of transgender adults also appears to be holding steady, with 60% saying their immediate family members support them.
Most respondents said their health was good, and the vast majority of people who had transitioned (94%) said they were more satisfied with their lives. Those who underwent hormone replacement therapy or underwent gender confirmation surgery during the transition process also reported high levels of life satisfaction.
James said at a news conference Tuesday that collecting this data is important because many cisgender people are trying to shape the public narrative about transgender people and their health care.
“These data overwhelmingly show that transgender people are more satisfied with their lives when they are able to live according to their gender identity,” he said.
As transgender people face persistent economic and health disparities, those in states that pass anti-trans laws also face a difficult, even financially impossible, choice – whether to leave. Across the South, tens of thousands of transgender people are on the move because of the impact of state-level anti-trans laws.
When the new survey collected data, 10 percent of respondents said they had moved to another area because of discrimination. Five percent of respondents moved to another state after their home state considered or passed a law that restricted their access to health care, exercise or bathrooms.
The top 10 states that respondents moved to are: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, according to the survey . Nine of those states, except Virginia, have passed bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Not all of these injunctions are effective, as various lawsuits proceed through the courts.
“Nearly half of respondents have considered moving to another state,” said Josie Caballero, director of the American Transgender Survey.So many trans people and their families are considering leaving their homes, highlighting urgency What they are facing, she told a news conference.
The 2015 survey has been used by Congress, the Supreme Court, law enforcement, healthcare organizations, universities, social service providers and government agencies. This valuable data comes from more than 27,000 responses.
The country has changed dramatically for LGBTQ+ people since 2015.Marriage equality is the law of the land and is now supported by a majority of Americans. More states across the country have passed nondiscrimination protections. The number of LGBTQ+-identifying Americans continues to grow, as does LGBTQ+ representation in the media.
Meanwhile, political attacks on LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people, have escalated to unprecedented levels. Year after year, hundreds of anti-trans bills have been introduced in statehouses targeting transgender participation in sports, access to gender-affirming care, access to public restrooms, representation in books and media, and the ability to renew identification documents. Recently, states are pushing to end the legal recognition of transgender people in public.
Advocates say the updated survey is overdue and urgently needed as anti-transgender bills flood state legislatures.
Trans people have been largely excluded from the state and federal research needed to support policies that protect their well-being. The federal government had never captured any data on LGBTQ+ Americans in a large, real-time national survey until 2021, when the Census Bureau began asking in its Pulse report on how Americans fare with their sexual orientation and gender identity The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Pandemic in America.
Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said lawmakers, media and advocates face a continued lack of information about the needs and experiences of transgender people. He said a lack of public understanding, combined with blatant misinformation, led to these escalating legislative attacks.
“At best, we are working in an information vacuum. At worst, we are combating dangerous misinformation spread by anti-trans extremists,” he said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Greene agreed that the lack of updated data only fuels attacks and misinformation against transgender Americans.
“It gives them the space to continue doing this work and opens up a channel for them to start expressing their views on us louder and louder,” he said. “They’re taking over the airwaves.”