Trans people and trans issues are getting more and more media coverage lately, which is unquestionably a good thing. However, despite the increased attention, trans people and the trans community are still not well understood by the mainstream — but hopefully here to change that is a new survey, the U.S. Trans Survey (USTS), conducted by and for trans Americans. The organizers expect it to be "the largest, most extensive study ever undertaken of trans lives in America."
“We’re at a critical moment for trans people in America, but there is basic, fundamental knowledge that we do not have,” Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, which is conducting the survey, said in a press release. “While we’re aware that trans people face extraordinary challenges, we cannot discern how frequent or widespread they are without up-to-date data. The survey will provide us with robust, fresh data, which will translate into significant knowledge about the trans community."
The USTS is a follow-up to the much-cited Transgender Discrimination Survey, which was released in 2011 and sought to further illuminate the violence and discrimination trans people sadly often have to deal with. The new survey will focus on an even broader array of topics and experiences, including employment, housing, healthcare, HIV/AIDS, disabilities, immigration, sex work, and police interactions.
We're living at a time where more and more trans people are in the spotlight, from actress Laverne Cox to activist and author Janet Mock to reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, which is great; however, it still doesn't necessarily paint a full picture. After all, as Caitlyn Jenner herself has acknowledged, most trans people won't have access to her financial resources when starting transition, and due to the uncommon privilege she enjoys, their experiences will not be like hers. Furthermore, the trans community itself is incredibly diverse — not just in terms of things like race, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation, but also in terms of how individuals define their gender identity.
So what does the trans community look life in real life, rather than how it's portrayed in the media? Well, the best way to find that out is really just to ask. Hence the new U.S. Trans Survey.
“Just like the first survey, the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey will help expand our understanding of trans experiences in the U.S., and inform life-saving laws and policies that meet the needs of our communities," Mara Keisling explains; she also adds, "It is for us, about us, and by us.” In other words, this isn't about outsiders "studying" the trans community, but about the community itself speaking out.
The USTS is open to "all trans-identified people, including genderqueer and non-binary people, at any stage of their lives, journey, or transition" who are 18 years or older and are currently living in a U.S. state or territory, or abroad on a military base. If you fit that description, the survey is available to take online until Sept. 21 at the U.S. Trans Survey website.