March 31 is International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV), a day for people around the world to celebrate the achievements of trans and gender non-conforming people. It’s a day to focus on the positive contributions of trans folks and to advocate for their rights. Troubling statistics about transgender people show that trans visibility — today and everyday — is crucial, perhaps now more than ever.
Events of the last few months have made it abundantly clear that people need to stand up for the safety, acceptance, and basic human rights of transgender people in the United States. This week, North Carolina may have partially repealed HB2, its anti-trans "bathroom bill" (though many argue that the law is still discriminatory against LGBTQ people), but a number of other states are still trying to pass similarly transphobic bathroom laws. In February, the Trump administration rescinded protection guidelines for trans students, and, this week, the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that it would not be counting LGBTQ Americans in the 2020 census. It's fair to assume that this assault on the rights and safety of trans people will be ongoing, and it's essential that supporters of trans rights stay engaged and continue to push back.
Transgender Day of Visibility isn’t intended to be a day of mourning (Transgender Day of Remembrance, which memorializes trans victims of violence, is in November). TDoV is about celebrating trans achievements and empowering trans activism — but the following statistics, which starkly reveal the struggle for basic civil rights that trans folks have to deal with every day, illustrate exactly why the fight for trans rights is so important.
1. In the United States, 1.4 million adults identify as transgender.
According to a June 2016 report by The Williams Institute, approximately 0.6 percent of U.S. adults identify as transgender. That may seem like a tiny percentage, but that translates to 1.4 million Americans who deserve to feel safe and respected within their communities, and to have the ability to exercise their full civil rights.
2. Transgender kids and teenagers experience high levels of bullying and violence at school.
The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that kids in grades K-12 who identified as transgender or gender non-conforming reported high rates of bullying and violence at school: 78 percent reported harassment, 35 percent reported physical assault, and 12 percent reported sexual violence. Even more disturbing is the fact that, for 31 percent of these kids and teens, harassment came at the hands of teachers and school staff, the very people who should have protected them. Trans and gender non-conforming students of color experienced even higher levels of school bullying and violence.
One sixth of K-12 students who identified as trans or gender non-conforming said that bullying was so bad that they left school because of it. The effects of this abuse seeped into these kids’ adult lives; the study found that students who had been harassed at school were more likely to have lower income levels as adults than other students.
3. Anti-LGBT violence disproportionally affects trans people — especially trans people of color.
A 2013 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) found that transgender people are at a higher risk of homicide than other LGBTQ people. In 2013, trans victims and survivors made up 13 percent of anti-LGBTQ hate violence reports to the NCAVP, and yet transgender women made up 72 percent of anti-LGBTQ homicide victims. Trans women of color — who accounted for 67 percent of anti-LGBTQ homicide victims — were particularly at risk.
4. Trans people are subject to higher rates of police violence.
The NCAVP report found that trans people are 3.7 times more likely to experience police violence than cisgender survivors and victims of anti-LGBT violence. The risk is higher for trans women, who are four times more likely than other survivors to have experienced police violence.
5. Trans people experience high rates of harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey describes harassment at work as “a near universal experience” for transgender and gender non-conforming employees, with 90 percent of respondents reporting that they had been harassed at work or forced to take “protective actions” (like hiding their gender identity) in order to avoid harassment.
Forty-seven percent of respondents said that they had experienced “an adverse job action” (such as not getting hired or promoted, or being fired) due to their being trans or gender nonconforming. Twenty-six percent reported losing their jobs because of their gender status, with a significantly higher rate of job loss for trans people of color.
The unemployment rate among trans people is twice the national average, and 44 percent of trans people report being underemployed — key issues that lead to high rates of poverty among trans people.
6. Due to these issues in the workplace, a higher-than-average rate of trans people live in poverty.
The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that trans people are four times more likely than the general population to have an annual income of less than $10,000.
7. Trans people face higher-than-average rates of housing discrimination and homelessness.
Trans people experience homelessness at a rate of twice the national average; at the same time, they are less than half as likely to own a home as the average American. Housing discrimination is a major problem, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, with 19 percent of trans people saying that they have been refused housing and 11 percent saying they’ve been evicted due to being transgender or gender non-conforming.
The persistent financial and housing insecurity experienced by many trans people only makes them more vulnerable to violence and less able to seek protection.
8. Trans people who have been harassed, bullied, and rejected by the people around them have an alarmingly high suicide rate.
Forty-one percent of the trans respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey said that they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives — a percentage that is more than 25 times higher than that of the general population. Trans people who experienced housing discrimination, job discrimination, rejection by their families, bullying in school, physical violence, or sexual assault had an even higher rate of suicide attempts.
Tellingly, a report by the Williams Institute found that trans people who are able to maintain strong relationships with their families after coming out have a much lower suicide rate of 33 percent (which is, granted, still much higher than the national average).
OK, so that’s all pretty depressing, and the point of Transgender Day of Visibility isn’t to be mournful, but rather to celebrate and empower the trans community. So think of it this way: Increasing trans visibility has the power to change these statistics for the better, by putting human faces to the issue of trans rights, and by showing trans people that they are not alone. Mari Brighe points out in an essay for Bustle that visibility on its own isn’t always enough to create real change, and it’s also important to acknowledge that, although visibility is a powerful thing, it’s also a risk in itself for many trans people. That’s all the more reason for allies to stand up for trans rights — to listen to what trans people have to say about their own experiences, support and participate in trans activism, and work to translate visibility into action.
If these statistics make you mad (and they should), participate in TDoV on Friday, and be an LGBTQ ally every day of the year. You can get involved by educating yourself about trans lives, terminology, and history; calling out transphobia when you see it; attending events scheduled for the Transgender Day of Visibility; listening, reading, and watching content created by trans people; amplifying trans voices by sharing content by trans folks on social media; and donating to or volunteering for organizations that support trans people and fight for their rights, like the Transgender Law Center, the Trevor Project, Trans Lifeline, and the Trans Youth Equality Foundation.