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Still So Far to Go for Transgender Equality

Still So Far to Go for Transgender Equality

On December 8, the National Center for Transgender Equality released the findings from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS), the largest survey to ever be conducted on the lives and experiences of transgender Americans. The USTS included 27,715 respondents from all fifty states, the District of Columbia, several U.S. territories and U.S. military bases overseas, and serves as a direct follow up to the 2008-2009 National Transgender Discrimination Survey. While the report acknowledges an upward trend in both visibility and acceptance of the transgender community, its sobering results find that transgender people continue to face widespread discrimination throughout their daily lives.

The survey found that 30% of respondents who had a job within the past year reported being fired, denied a promotion or mistreated due to their gender identity or expression. In addition, more than three-quarters (77%) of respondents who had a job within the past year reported the need to hide their identity, delay their gender transition or quit their job just to avoid mistreatment in the workplace. Respondents were nearly four times less likely to own a home (16%) compared to the U.S. population (63%), and those who were out or perceived as transgender while attending school (K–12) reported being verbally harassed (54%), physically attacked (24%), or sexually assaulted (13%) as a result of their gender identity.

One statistic that remained relatively unchanged from the results of the previous survey was the 40% of respondents who stated that they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives, nearly nine times the U.S. population (4.6%). In the 2008-2009 survey, that number was 41%. The USTS did find that the rate of attempted suicide dropped from 54% to 37% depending on whether the transgender individual came from a supportive family, illustrating the significant impact that community support can have on the safety and well being of transgender people.

We are taught in the Book of Genesis that the stamp of the Divine is present in all human beings, regardless of their gender identity or expression. Every person has a unique quality which aids them in fulfilling the sacred work of tikkun olam, repairing the world, and to discriminate against any one of them would be to obstruct that mission.

In 30 states, it is still legal to not hire, fire, demote or fail to promote an employee based on their actual or perceived gender identity. In 31 states, a transgender person can be kicked out of a restaurant or off a public bus without any consequence to the one responsible. More than 35 states lack explicit legislation that would address discrimination against transgender students in schools, and only nine states have legislative bans on insurance exclusions for trans-specific healthcare needs.

The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey illustrates the need for comprehensive non-discrimination legislation that would protect members of the transgender community from being excluded, mistreated or disadvantaged simply because of who they are. The Equality Act (H.R. 3185/S. 1858) would provide such protections, prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, federal funding, education, credit and jury selection based on sexual orientation and gender identity. By amending and strengthening existing civil rights laws, LGBTQ people would be granted the same protections that are already ensured to other protected classes (like race, religion, or national origin), and would ensure that these protections are not dependent on where one lives.

We cannot afford to wait any longer. Take action today by urging your Members of Congress to cosponsor the Equality Act.

Max Antman is 2016-2017 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Max is originally from Evanston, IL., where he is a member of Beth Emet the Free Synagogue. Max attended the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign.

Max Antman
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