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Survey findings illustrate Illinois trans community challenges
by Matt Simonette

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A report released this month calls attention to myriad challenges facing members of Illinois' transgender community.

The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, released at the end of 2016, is intended, according to its website, as "the community's go-to resource for helping the public understand trans people. It's shown us how many trans people have faced discrimination and harassment at school, work, in health care, in homeless shelters, in the criminal justice system, as well as many other areas of life."

The publishers of the study, the National Center for Transgender Equality, promised reports isolating issues state-by-state. The Illinois report, based on more than 1,000 respondents, was delivered in October.

The report points to a wide-range of issues for transgender Illinoisans, pertaining to categories such as income and employment status, workplaces, police interactions, public accommodations access and insurance issues.

Among the findings, 21 percent of respondents reported that they were living in poverty, and 28 percent reported being fired, denied a promotion or not being hired in the previous year because of their gender-identity or -expression. About 21 percent had experienced some form of housing discrimination in the past year, while 28 percent had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

Furthermore, 69 percent of individuals who'd had an interaction with police said that they'd experienced some sort of mistreatment.

Here are highlights from the report:

Income and Employment Status

— 11% of respondents in Illinois were unemployed.

— 15% of respondents who have ever been employed reported losing a job in their lifetime because of their gender identity or expression.

— Respondents who had a job in the past year reported being verbally harassed ( 18% ), physically attacked ( 1% ), and sexually assaulted ( 2% ) at work because of their gender identity or expression.

— 26% of those who had a job in the past year reported other forms of mistreatment based on their gender identity or expression during that year, such as being forced to use a restroom that did not match their gender identity, being told to present in the wrong gender in order to keep their job, or having a boss or coworker share private information about their transgender status with others without their permission.


— 80% of those who were out or perceived as transgender at some point between Kindergarten and Grade 12 ( K—12 ) experienced some form of mistreatment, such as being verbally harassed, prohibited from dressing according to their gender identity, disciplined more harshly, or physically or sexually assaulted because people thought they were transgender; 58% of those who were out or perceived as transgender in K—12 were verbally harassed, 25% were physically attacked, and 13% were sexually assaulted in K—12 because of being transgender.

— 20% faced such severe mistreatment as a transgender person that they left a K—12 school.

— 27% of respondents who were out or perceived as transgender in college or vocational school were verbally, physically, or sexually harassed because of being transgender.

Housing, Homelessness, and Shelter Access

— 21% of respondents experienced some form of housing discrimination in the past year, such as being evicted from their home or denied a home or apartment because of being transgender.

— 28% have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

— 11% experienced homelessness in the past year because of being transgender.

— 18% of respondents who experienced homelessness in the past year avoided staying in a shelter because they feared being mistreated as a transgender person.

Public Accommodations

Of respondents who visited a place of public accommodation where staff or employees thought or knew they were transgender, 33% experienced at least one type of mistreatment in the past year. This included 11% who were denied equal treatment or service, 29% who were verbally harassed, and 4% who were physically attacked because of being transgender.


— 9% of respondents reported that someone denied them access to a restroom in the past year.

— In the past year, respondents reported being verbally harassed ( 11% ) and physically attacked ( 1% ) when accessing a restroom.

— 58% of respondents avoided using a public restroom in the past year because they were afraid of confrontations or other problems they might experience.

— 28% of respondents limited the amount that they ate or drank to avoid using the restroom in the past year.

Police Interactions

Respondents experienced high levels of mistreatment and harassment by police. In the past year, of respondents who interacted with police or other law enforcement officers who thought or knew they were transgender, 69% experienced some form of mistreatment. This included being verbally harassed, repeatedly referred to as the wrong gender, physically assaulted, or sexually assaulted, including being forced by officers to engage in sexual activity to avoid arrest.

— 56% of respondents said they would feel uncomfortable asking the police for help if they needed it.


— 28% of respondents experienced a problem in the past year with their insurance related to being transgender, such as being denied coverage for care related to gender transition or being denied coverage for routine care because they were transgender.

— 33% of those who saw a healthcare provider in the past year reported having at least one negative experience related to being transgender. This included being refused treatment, verbally harassed, or physically or sexually assaulted, or having to teach the provider about transgender people in order to get appropriate care.

— In the past year, 24% of respondents did not see a doctor when they needed to because of fear of being mistreated as a transgender person, and 29% did not see a doctor when needed because they could not afford it.

— 35% of respondents experienced serious psychological distress in the month before completing the survey ( based on the Kessler 6 Psychological Distress Scale ).

— 13% of respondents reported that a professional, such as a psychologist, counselor, or religious advisor, tried to stop them from being transgender.

Identity Documents

Only 11% of respondents reported that all of their IDs had the name and gender they preferred, while 65% reported that none of their IDs had the name and gender they preferred.

The cost of changing IDs was one of the main barriers respondents faced, with 31% of those who have not changed their legal name and 27% of those who have not updated the gender on their IDs reporting that it was because they could not afford it.

— 34% of respondents who have shown an ID with a name or gender that did not match their gender presentation were verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted.

The complete Illinois report is available at

The full report and Executive Summary of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey are available at .

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