Startling Stats on Transgender Discrimination

We’ve all heard the expression: “Kids can be so cruel.” Now we have stats to back it up, at least in terms of their treatment of gender-nonconforming children. A new study shows that the non-conformers face rates of cruel harassment and discrimination far higher than cisgender kids–and that discrimination has palpable effects in adulthood.

According to a first-of-its-kind survey of trans folks in the United States, more than 78 percent of the surveyed population were severely harassed as children, and of those, more than one-third are living in poverty as adults. It’s a startling statistic, linking childhood ostracization, alienation and discrimination with adult poverty. And it has come to light thanks to “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey,” a study co-authored by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Where previous studies on poverty and discrimination in the LGBT community have lumped together sexual orientation and gender identity, “Injustice at Every Turn” sheds light on the targeted and specific discrimination faced by gender non-conforming children and adults.

The facts speak for themselves:

  • 15 percent of the sample population earns less than $10,000 per year (an additional 21 percent earns less than $20,000)
  • 78 percent of transgender Americans faced severe harassment in childhood
  • 41 percent had attempted suicide–of the general population, only 1.6 percent have attempted suicide
  • Trans folks are two times more likely than the cis population to face unemployment
  • One-fifth of respondents had been homeless at one time

Though academic studies have previously documented efforts to ensconce transgender rights in law and legislation, this survey of 6,450 trans Americans quantifies and lays out, in stunning detail, the economic and social impacts of gender-identity discrimination.

So what does this study mean for trans folks and advocates? For one thing, it provides a framework for arguments in favor of transgender-specific sensitivity training, including anti-bullying workshops for children and anti-trans discrimination training for law enforcement officials, employers and landlords. It also provides the basis for legal and legislative lobbying efforts. And it has the potential to change the national dialogue on transgender identities, gender display and gender identity-based discrimination.

You can join the fight for transgender rights at the National Center for Transgender Equality’s policy conference and lobby days, March 13-15 in Washington, DC. More details available here.

Taiwan transgender triangle image via Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Robyn Sheppard says:

    Gee, now that there are “official statistics,” do you think grown-ups will listen to the young ones now? They sure didn’t when I was growing up “different.”

  2. Thank you for posting this. The groundbreaking survey will most likely be instrumental in the fight for civil rights for transgender and gender non-conforming people. The more people who see it, the better!

  3. ns harris says:

    What about the kids who are Gender Non-Conforming, but who are NOT Trans?
    What about the Butch/masculine-presenting Lesbians and the feminine-presenting Gay boys/men?- seems that they are being swept under the rug here.
    They subvert gender roles and expectations and presentation _within_ their biological genders. They live at the very intersection of gender and sexual orientation.
    Out in the world they threaten the status quo and get the 'Act Like A Girl' or 'Be A Man' messages and subsequent punishments from their peers and families if they don't conform.
    If this distinction isn't made, will they be left out of the outreach and activism?

    • They are left out of this one because having even a single, remotely meaningful survey about trans-identified people was so badly needed. There are many among our supposed LGB allies who would claim that the issues identified by this study simply don't happen to trans people. Finally here is data that demonstrates otherwise.

      Lobby the organizations for that study; it should be done, but in *addition* to, not instead of.

  4. I will listen and support my children. Your work is appreciated!
    No matter what I love my kids and will teach them respect for everyone.
    They look to us for guidance- different can be creative and thought provoking and just plain really
    Cool. So far- different is normal, and I love that too.
    Explore, accept, and be kind.

  5. I am a mother of a transgender male to female, 20 year old. I have and seen a lot of discrimination against transgenders, also gays/ lesbians. My thoughts are this…I would rather have my child healthy, happy and here, then dead or lost to a world of drugs, and hate. My child, my dayghter, is a humane being with feelings. She knows that she will have a hard time finding work and acceptance but life has got to change and the discrimination out there is judgemental, hurtful, and is unjust. Life is not what it use to be, where people did not talk of such things or swept it under the rug for fear friends and family would find out. Times have changed and as with technology, we learn to accept. Afterall, God does not judge those things. People do. It isn’t transgendering that people fear. It is their ignorance and prejudices, and if God accepts all living creatures, so should those who believe in HIS word. I may have morned the loss of my son but I welcome and embrace the daughter I have now because I love her unconditionally. People in the work place are bias and simple minded. Life will change and hopefully, soon. Gays/Lesbians and Transgenders have rights, too, and I will support them as my husband does. Openly, honestly and happily!

    • Well said Karol. I, too, am a mother of a transgender ftm. I love my child unconditionally. We are in the VERY early stages of this. I have known that she was gay for just under a year, and now have learned of her being transgender for just over a month. It’s hard, I won’t deny it. I suppose I am in that grieving stage that you mentioned. But I will make it through, and this isn’t about me. But just recently, she dropped out of school…”school isn’t my thing” she said. With the statistics that I have been reading….she will have the walls stacked against her enough without her voluntarily avoiding education. I fear for her on so many levels. Right now, it’s a social level. She is a smart person…..used to have hopes and dreams of being a social worker…..and she’d be a good one too……..but being transgender has consumed her every thought these days and she has given up on the other things that are important too. Its frustrating as a parent to watch. I do accept her 100%…….but being trans is just a part of her……..not all of her. I’m sorry…I just realized how many times I have referred to him as a her. It’s early days. I’m still not used to it. But be reassured….I respect him and only refer to him as his true identity when I am in his presence. Baby steps I guess. Maybe my head is jumping too far ahead…maybe I need to slow down and take it a day at a time. thanks

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