At the Wilson Building today, the DC Trans Coalition released the results of a community-based survey that took more than four years to complete. It shows that transgender residents of the District—especially trans women of color—face extensive discrimination and hurdles to social services.
The report, called “Access Denied,” is based on the responses of 521 trans people who answered 80 questions concerning their needs and experiences. Overall, it finds that a significant portion of D.C.’s transgender community confronts a “triple threat” of transphobia, racism, and sexism—at work, in school, and while seeking vital services like homeless shelters. Those intersections, lead statistician Elena Lumby explained, demonstrate that transgender people in D.C. don’t form one monolithic group; instead, there are disparities in terms of income, education, and other measures among non-gender-conforming individuals. Ruby Corado, executive director of trans-advocacy group Casa Ruby, and Elijah Edelman, an adjunct at American University, also led the project. The organizers say the report is the “largest local-level survey” on trans people ever conducted in the U.S.
“This is for you,” Corado said to a room filled with several dozen trans residents, advocates, and allies in the Wilson Building. “This [report] is a tool. Make sure you use it to better our lives.”
Fifty-nine and 63 percent of the participants in the 100-plus-page report were people of color and trans women, respectively. Here are some key statistics the authors highlighted at the gathering:
- 42 percent of respondents said they had been harassed on the job for being perceived as trans.
- 57 percent of those who had attained only a high-school degree said they were unemployed.
- 28 percent of those who had attained only an associate degree said they were unemployed.
- 30 percent of participants said they had engaged in sex work at some point: Of those, 37 and 43 percent were homeless and HIV-positive, respectively.
- 27 percent of respondents who said they had gone to a shelter were denied access: Of those, 41 percent had been assaulted by residents or staff.
- 60 percent of participants considered suicide at some point; 34 percent attempted suicide; and 10 percent attempted suicide within the past year.
A handful of trans people who had participated in the survey gave remarks at the event. One woman named Molly said she started transitioning towards the end of high school, became homeless, and engaged in sex work. “Growing up in D.C. is not easy period whether you’re trans or cis,” she said. “I grew up in Southeast, pretty much everyone’s personal hellhole. It’s been tough since starting [to transition].” A man named Reese said he was sexually assaulted both before and after he had transitioned. “You need to shut down stuff like ‘men can’t get raped,’” he remarked. And a woman named Jess testified that “the numbers in this report are just terrifying.”
Corado then drew attention to other recent reports on trans people, including one released about two weeks ago by the D.C. Office of Human Rights, which found high rates of discrimination against trans people across six local industries based on job-application testing it had conducted. She also announced some personal news: After becoming sick several weeks ago due to HIV and other circumstances, Corado will be going on sabbatical as executive director of Casa Ruby.
“I’m going to take a little break, but I am coming back,” she said. “Take this document and hold people accountable.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery