Fighting for Transgender People

A long-awaited survey from National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) was published on Thursday. Much of the news was grim.

It is the most comprehensive survey of transgender people in the U.S. ever conducted. Nearly 28,000 people — from all 50 states, territories, and military bases– shared detailed about their lives across a wide array of categories: education, employment, family life, health, housing, and interactions with the criminal justice system. They spoke of losing jobs and harassment, and an alarming number live in poverty.

Four data points jumped out immediately:

“In the year prior to completing the survey, 30% of respondents who had a job reported being fired, denied a promotion, or experiencing some other form of mistreatment in the workplace due to their gender identity or expression, such as being verbally harassed or physically or sexually assaulted at work.”

“In the year prior to completing the survey, 46% of respondents were verbally harassed and 9% were physically attacked because of being transgender. During that same time period, 10% of respondents were sexually assaulted, and nearly half (47%) were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.

“Nearly one-third (29%) of respondents were living in poverty, compared to 14% in the U.S. population. A major contributor to the high rate of poverty is likely respondents’ 15% unemployment rate — three times higher than the unemployment rate in the U.S. population at the time of the survey (5%).”

“While respondents in the USTS sample overall were more than twice as likely as the U.S. population to be living in poverty, people of color, including Latino/a (43%), American Indian (41%), multiracial (40%), and Black (38%) respondents, were up to three times as likely as the U.S. population (14%) to be living in poverty.”

What’s clear: Transgender people need allies, badly. And that’s where the business community can make a real difference.

Consider the most recent example of the passage of North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which eliminated protections for people who are gay or transgender that allowed them to use public restrooms based on their gender identity. It was the business community working separately and together that elevated that local legislation into a national conversation. And, it cost North Carolina some real revenue.

More than 200 companies and organizations denounced the legislation, and in some cases, changed their plans to do business in the state. Deutsche Bank canceled plans to expand their operations in the state, PayPal canceled plans to open a new global payment center in Charlotte, the NBA moved it’s 2017 All-Star festivities, and entertainers like Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and the producers of the Broadway show Wicked all canceled performances in North Carolina.

It also cost may have cost North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who championed the legislation, his job. The new governor, Roy Cooper, plans on repealing the law.

But there is so much more work to do, as the level of violence, poverty, and unemployment experienced by transgender people continues to outpace other populations. It may not always be possible or practical to wage a public fight over legislation, but you can start with your own workplaces.

Do any of the 30% of respondents who were fired or denied advancement work for you? Do your transgender employees feel safe and valued? Are you sure?


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