Researching The Status of Transgender People With The Williams Institute

by Becky Garrison

For those faith-based leaders looking to create spaces that are welcoming to transgender individuals and their families, the Williams Institute can provide a wealth of resources.

Jody Herman, Ph.D., and Peter J. Cooper, public policy fellow, and manager of transgender research at the Williams Institute provided research on gendered bathrooms that point to the problems faced by transgender people when gender neutral bathrooms are not available. The Washington, DC- based survey, conducted with the DC Trans Coalition, found that 70 percent of survey respondents report experiencing verbal harassment, assault, and being denied access to public restrooms.

When faith communities advocate on behalf of voter identification laws, Herman’s papers “The Potential Impact of Voter Identification Laws on Transgender Voters” (2012) and “The Potential Impact of a Strict Voter Identification Law on Transgender Voters in North Carolina” (2013) help create an awareness regarding how these changes will impact transgender people. According to this report, “41 percent of transgender citizens who have transitioned reported not having an updated driver’s license and 74 percent did not have an updated U.S. passport. Moreover, 27 percent of transgender citizens who have transitioned reported that they had no identity documents or records that list their current gender.”

Transgender people, therefore, could encounter problems voting because of a lack of accurate identification.

Other topics addressed by the Williams Institute include transgender servicepersons and veterans, the impact of local laws and government policies prohibiting gender-based discrimination, and the cost of employment and housing discrimination against transgender people.

A forthcoming study on transgender parenting will provide insights for communities looking to create family related programming that includes transgender children and young adult. All completed studies produced by the Williams Institute can be found on their website.

The findings from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), conducted in 2008 by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, provide the in-depth analysis of the trans community to date. Among the key findings:

  • Discrimination was pervasive throughout the entire sample, yet the combination of anti-transgender bias and persistent, structural racism was especially devastating. People of color in general fare worse than white participants across the board, with African American transgender respondents faring far worse than all others in most areas examined.
  • Respondents lived in extreme poverty. This sample was nearly four times more likely to have a household income of less than $10,000/ year compared to the general population.
  • A staggering 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population with rates rising for those who lost a job due to bias (55%), were harassed/bullied in school (51%), had low household income, or were the victim of physical assault (61%) or sexual assault (64%).

According to Herman, the NTDS addressed a major problem in transgender research because little data exists about the transgender community.

Most information about the U.S. population comes from national government surveys that don’t collect data on gender identity or even sexual orientation. For the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measured sexual orientation in the National Health Interview Survey, a large-scale government survey measuring Americans’ health and behaviors.

In the near future, the GenIUSS group (Gender Identity in U.S. Surveillance), a collaboration of scientists, scholars, and transgender leaders convened by the Williams Institute, will present their recommendations and best practices for gender identity questions and data collection.

Photo via ReconcilingWorks