Quantifiable proof of injustice against transgender and gender non-conforming individuals now exists in the form of a new national study. Titled "Injustice at Every Turn," the survey highlights the myriad of challenges trans people face in employment, educations, housing, public accommodations and more.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) presented a summary of its 200-page report, created in conjunction with the National Center for Transgender Equality, May 25 at the Center on Halsted. The Center provided a local panel of equality advocates and an open community forum to discuss the findings and current efforts to improve trans rights and equality in Chicago and Illinois.
A total of 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming individuals from all 50 states (including 173 from Chicago) completed the survey from September 2008 through February 2009. The survey's key findings were that most of its respondents lived in extreme poverty; trans people of color faced a significantly higher degree of discrimination; and 41 percent of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6 percent of the general population.
The survey aimed to provide policymakers, community activists and legal advocates the data they need to improve efforts toward transgender justice and equality. NGLTF Deputy Executive Director Russell Roybal presented the summary and said that current equality efforts need to be more inclusive of the transgender community.
"Although there have been many positive laws at the state and municipal level that include sexual orientation-based non-discrimination, there have been many that did not include gender identity or expression," Roybal said. "So part of the goal of creating this survey was to provide the information necessary to make those policy changes at the local, state and national level."
After Roybal's presentation, Lisa Gilmore, Center on Halsted's director of education and victim advocacy, moderated a panel discussion and forum on trans issues and efforts on the local level. Panelists included Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA); Kate Sosin, co-founder of Genderqueer Chicago and Windy City Times reporter; and Owen Daniel-McCarter, project attorney for Transformative Justice Law Project (TJLP) in Illinois.
Sosin discussed Genderqueer Chicago's T-Friendly Bathroom Initiative, which launched in February to provide transgender individuals with safe public restrooms throughout the city.
"One of the stories that a lot of trans people share is anxiety over bathrooms," Sosin said. "It's so common. When we boiled it down and talked about it, your right to use the toilet should not be in dispute."
Daniel-McCarter said that TJLP holds day events in the city to assist transgender people with name-change paperwork. He also described the project's efforts to provide legal council for trans persons improperly assigned to sex-segregated prisons.
"In Illinois, people are placed according to the sex that was assigned to them at birth, not to their preferred gender identity," Daniel-McCarter said, "which means since about 93 percent of people who are incarcerated in our country are assigned male, most of our clients are transgender women who are in men's prisons and are experiencing some of the most horrific hate based violence that I've ever seen in my life."
Some organizations, such as TCRA, have already put the new survey to use. Martinez said TCRA's lawyers used the report to bolster their argument in a case involving a Metra worker who transitioned on the job and was denied the ability to use the locker room that best represented their gender identity. He says the next step is to use the information to help inform lawmakers.
"Now we want to use this report to help work with our legislators to help educate them around trans issues," Martinez said. "That's kind of the next frontier for the LGBT community in terms of ensuring transgender people have protections overtly and are able to do simple things like change their birth certificate to their current gender identity."
The full "Injustice at Every Turn" report is available at www.TheTaskForce.org, or www.TransEquality.org . More information about the survey can be found at www.EndTransDiscrimination.org .