Transgender Equality (part 1)

with Mara Keisling of National Center for Transgender Equality

National Community

In December of 2016, the National Center formTransgender Equality released results of the largest survey of transgender people conducted to date.  Some of the key findings include:

  • Nearly half (47%) of respondents have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.
  • A staggering 39% of respondents were currently experiencing serious psychological distress, compared with only 5% of the U.S. population.
  • Nearly one-third (29%) of transgender respondents were living in poverty, compared to 14% in the U.S. population.
  • A major contributor to the high rate of poverty is respondents’ 15% unemployment rate—three times higher that of the U.S. population at the time of the survey (5%).
  • Nearly one-third (30%) of respondents have been homeless at some point in their lifetime, and 12% were homeless in the year prior to completing the survey.

Mara Keisling, Executive Director of NCTE joins Robert Traynham for a discussion about Transgender Equality.  This discussion continues in part 2 (Transgender Equality).

Visit the National Center for Transgender Equality on the web, on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

Interview recorded on May 17, 2017.  Hosted by Robert Traynham.  Part 1 of 2.

Read a partial transcript of this interview below:

Traynham: Two out of every five transgender Americans have attempted suicide, while nearly half have fallen victim to sexual assault — staggering findings from a 2015 report by the National Center for Transgender Equality. Mara Keisling is executive director of the organization. Mara, you know, despite the increasing visibility and awareness of transgender individuals, there appears to still be a stigma with that community. Why is that the case?

Keisling: Well, I think its a matter of people getting to know us. Transgender people are becoming much more visible, much more accepted. The survey you just referred to shows that theres still a lot of disrespect and discrimination and even violence. But the visibility is increasing. The acceptance is increasing. What I think were trying to do with the National Center for Transgender Equality is to increase acceptance and increase visibility, change the rules. The rules in our society have been set up, stacked against transgender people and other kinds of people, too. Were working to try to build community so folks who maybe dont get the support from their families that they need have the support of the community. But what we see about all the positive/negative outcomes that transgender people might face is that they are substantially insulated from them if they have family acceptance. Family acceptance is just so important, and its important for everybody.

Traynham: You know, I want to know whether or not, if youre a part of the transgender community, if you do not have that acceptance from your family, are you more adapt to move away? And then, where do you move to? Is it more of an urban area? Is it a safe place? And where would that might be? I guess my question is, is it really geared towards individuals that want to move simply because they have no place to feel home or safe with?

Keisling: Yeah, that was a very common thing decades ago, also for gay people. So cities like Washington, D.C., became meccas for people in the Middle Atlantic States. And not just D.C. but Philly. And if you go down to Texas, theres disproportionately huge populations in Austin and Dallas and Houston, and less so in the small towns, because people still sometimes live in places, and they just know that their hometown, their family, can never understand all the possibilities that they see for their own lives. So people will often move away. Hopefully, we can get the message across to everybody that you want people to stay.

Traynham: Right. Its their home.

Keisling: Its their home.

Traynham: Its their family. Its their social network. One would think that they would have stayed home.

Keisling: Right. And its the fabric of the society, of the particular society and the particular community.

Traynham: Sure.

Keisling: And when people leave, that fabric is disturbed somewhat. Theres always going to be people leaving their community.

Traynham: Sure.

Keisling: But it shouldnt be because they feel like they dont belong.

Traynham: Mara, are the numbers higher for people of color — for transgender people of color — and if so, why?

Keisling: Well, throughout the survey, in all the different areas we looked at — maybe I shouldnt say “all,” but I think just about all — the disrespect, discrimination, and violence that transgender people face is even worse if youre also facing racism, and to a lesser extent, other kinds of oppression like ableism, people who are immigrants.