Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Black Trans Respondents Fared Worse In Discrimination Survey

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | September 19, 2011 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Injustice At Every Turn, intersectionality, National Black Justice Coalition, National Center for Transgender Equality, task force, transgender discrimination

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, a new analysis of data from the most recent large-scale survey of transgender discrimination shows that Black transgender and gender non-conforming people face some of the highest levels of discrimination of all transgender people. according to a new analysis released today, Injustice at Every Turn: A Look at Black Respondents in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.

This report by the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) is a supplement to the groundbreaking national study, Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which was published in February and revealed widespread discrimination experienced by transgender and gender non-conforming people across the board.

Discrimination was pervasive for the entire sample, but anti-transgender bias coupled with structural racism meant that transgender people of color experienced particularly devastating levels of discrimination, with Black respondents often faring worse than all others. Among the key findings of the analysis released today:

  • Black transgender people had an extremely high unemployment rate at 26 percent, two times the rate of the overall transgender sample and four times the rate of the general population.
  • A startling 41 percent of Black respondents said they had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, more than five times the rate of the general U.S. population.
  • Black transgender people lived in extreme poverty with 34 percent reporting a household income of less than $10,000 per year. This is more than twice the rate for transgender people of all races (15 percent), four times the general Black population rate (9 percent), and eight times the general U.S. population rate (4 percent).
  • Black transgender people were affected by HIV in devastating numbers. More than one-fifth of respondents were living with HIV (20.23 percent), compared to a rate of 2.64 percent for transgender respondents of all races, 2.4 percent for the general Black population, and 0.60 percent of the general U.S. population.

"From education to employment and housing discrimination, from police brutality to health care disparities, Black transgender people are suffering at extremely high rates due to bigotry and transphobia," said National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director Sharon Lettman-Hicks.

While, of course, it is well known that intersectionality of oppressions creates a multiplier effect for those subjected to several different social stigmas, it is important to see that the data confirms the theory of intersectionality. That makes it crucial for trans organizations, and those that claim to represent the community, to include trans people of color on their Boards and in their agenda-setting.


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sad but so true.... Thanks again Jill. You always bring the important issues to the forefront.

"That makes it crucial for trans organizations, and those that claim to represent the community, to include trans people of color on their Boards and in their agenda-setting."

This is a convincing statement, and influences my viewpoint about the inclusion of Black transpeople in our organizations. And in my mind, it also applies to a far larger number of LGBT organizations that claim to make a true commitment to the "T" in their organizational descriptions.

This is probably something I should have figured out on my own, since my first reaction to your headline was, "Well ... duh!" Thank You for nudging once more, Dr. Jillian.

But I also point out a paradox here ... many Black transgenders may not have interest, will, time or energy to serve on such boards if they are spending every drop of life resources just trying to make a living and/or survive. Other than including the ones that can serve in leadership positions, there's got to be more our community can do. Do I need to point out that top items on our movement's current priority list, marriage equality, DADT repeal, and/or a non-trans-inclusive ENDA, will not do a damn thing for these struggling souls?

Wow, I'm lucky i guess. I make 50K/yr and have not yet had any discrimination happen to me. I have never been ask to serve on any committee's of merit. Usually, I'm just asked to share about my experience transitioning for colleges or local LGBT orgnizations.

Hi A.J.

Black trans folks who are struggling to survive are *also* struggling to be heard and seen.

But they are rarely brought into boards and agencies and such because no one ever goes out and asks them.

It is left to them to make an effort to be heard and seen and recognized, and one of the lessons that has carried forward from the past is that when you are heard and seen and noted, you are also accused of being "not black enough" or "selling out" from one side, or else you are told you are "being racist" or "too loud" or similar such things.

So the leadership of those organizations need to make a conscious effort to step out not only of their "color" bubble, but *also* of their class bubble, which is even harder to step outside of because it means dealing with people who might not be as couth or class conscious as one would like.

The report shows that such discrimination begins *early* -- it affects not merely the persistent economic disadvantages, it also affects their social circle. When sturggling, one often finds one's self in the Street clture, which is very much unlike what many who serve on these large boards are aware of.

Making good money can be an incredible insulator. HAving a college education can be an incredible insulator.

I talk a lot about my job. My job was created by a Black trans woman who asked the same question you did, only she did it while sitting with her feet in the gutter on the sidewalk knowing that to get anywhere she would have to give up being herself. She swore she would make that happen.

It took her ten years to make it happen. She only knew the LGB community. And she went to individuals in it over and over again in those ten years. She talked about what she wanted to do constantly.

And she heard all of the stuff I talked about above, and no one offered to help her for years. To them, she was an uncouth high school drop out, a street walker, and, well, "crazy" because she seemed to lack social graces to them.

Someone did finally see past all of that. And he did help her. His name is Kirk Baxter. He is a white gay man. He helped her to get started.

You want to know what more can be done? Be more like Kirk. When asked to help, simply forget everything else and just do it.

And be aware that you probably won't get any recognition for it, and that you probably won't have any benefit from it.

That's what can be done -- and there are people who are doing it.

Another thing is to realize that when someone calls an outspoken person of color "racist", they probably aren't couth enough or aware enough of their dominant class privilege to really have a bleeping clue about what they are speaking.

Remind them of that. Gently, but firmly.

Those are just a couple things. And from there, one might see more that is possible.

Such as supporting trans organizations who are dedicated to solving these problems.

And I'll avoid the plug for now...

We're making some progress in Australia, so maybe I can take time out to but into another country's internal affairs.

From the viewpoint of those Down Under, the elephant in the room is lack of African-American people in positions of power in the US GLBT movement.

It's embarrassing. In particular, TWOC - Trans Women Of Color - have NO representation, NO voice. Not just "token", nothing. This has to change. There's talent there, but it's being ignored.

They're not just over-represented in the hate crime statistics, they account for the majority of them. The disparity here, the Separate But Unequal treatment is TOO OBVIOUS for it to be accidental.

Fix it. I don't care how you do it, by subsidies for those not "comfortably well off", by "affirmative action" or other race-based preference, but it's gone beyond a joke now.

I rarely use such language. I rarely SHOUT. I reserve that for special occasions. This qualifies, this situation went beyond merely "unacceptable" a long time ago.

I do wonder how our own Australian Sistagirls fare though.

Please do not use "people of color" as being strictly synonymous with people of African ancestry -- PoC refers to all non-white ethnicity. All type of people of color are grossly underrepresented in the leadership echelons of the LGBT movement, not just African-Americans.

I posted the results of this survey in a TransGriot post on August 8, and I find it interesting that on the eve of the NBJC OUT on the Hill LGBT conference in DC NCTE, which has little to zero African American representation in their senior leadership now posts a press release on it to give the 'illusion of inclusion' is this being talked about.

And you wonder why African American trans people are seriously discussing separation from the overall trans community because of this marginalization, disrespect and erasure.

I've only been talking about these issues since 1998 around the Net here at TBP and my blog,and devoted part of my 2006 IFGE Trinity speech to talking about it, and yet the BS continues.

And yeah, getting more than a little sick of being called 'racist' for speaking truth to your vanilla scented privilege and power, and news flash, the people who share my ethnic heritage are getting sick of it too.

I can guarantee you one thing...the African American trans community is not going to allow this jacked up status quo to continue for another decade. You have two choices: deal with the reality of opening the ranks of leadership to talented African descended and other POC leadership or watch us leave and handle our own trans business