New Report Puts The Spotlight On The Black Transgender Experience

The report examines the "deeper and broader forms of discrimination" black trans people face in comparison to their white counterparts.

black & trans
Photo Credit: Photo: Lauren Jeziorski/B.L.A.C. Detroit

| November 03 2017,

6:41 pm

Some feel that LGBTQ movements have a problem with centering on white narratives, and the erasure of the black experience. Intersectionality is key when discussing any group, as there are always several layers to unpack. 

A recent report from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Black Trans Advocacy and the National Black Justice Coalition keeps this in mind, and is focused on the black trans community. Titled, "Report on the Experiences of Black Respondents," this new report surveyed 796 trans people who identify as black or African American and builds upon research presented in NCTE's 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS).

The report investigated topics ranging from income to sexual assault, and found that black trans Americans face "deeper and broader forms of discrimination" than their white peers. 

“With this data, we’re able to supplement the information we already had about trans people’s experiences to paint a more complete picture of those experiences,” NCTE Research Director Sandy James told NBC News. “This is critical for advocacy and education, and it can impact polices and laws.”

Not only does the data give insight that helps with legislation; it also tells the experiences of individual people.

"When we started to look at the data for this breakout report," James said, "There were often disparities between the experiences of black trans people, people in USTS sample overall and white respondents in the USTS sample."

The hard numbers that came out of the collection of these experiences were sobering.

James said that "20 percent of black USTS respondents were unemployed, which is four times the rate in the U.S. population overall, but also twice the rate of unemployment of black people in the U.S. population, which illustrates the compounding effect of being both black and trans."

What else did researchers discover?

That a tragic 38 percent of the respondents were living in poverty, and that 42 percent of respondents had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

When it came to health, 6.7 percent of respondents were living with HIV (20 times the rate of the general U.S. population), and 34 percent said that they had experienced at least one negative encounter related to their trans identity when seeking healthcare.

53 percent of the respondents said they had been sexually assaulted. 

And a full 67 percent of respondents admitted they'd be uncomfortable asking the police for assistance.

The report's authors say that this report is especially timely given the increased visibility of black trans people in Hollywood.

“The public is misled into believing high-profile individuals like Laverne Cox or Janet Mock are the new norm for the lives of black trans people," noted Stacey Long Simmons, director of public policy and government affairs for the National LGBTQ Task Force. "But this data reveals that the lived reality for the majority of black trans people in this country is an entirely different story.”

Simmons added, "The general public needs to know that one of the most dangerous things in the world is to be ‘walking while trans.' Walking while black and trans can be twice as deadly."

Overall, James has high hopes that this report will foster real change.

“Advocates have been able to use [the 2015 USTS] to influence policy, and it’s been cited in legal documents and briefs for court cases," James explained. "We expect similar outcomes for this newly released report on the experiences of black respondents.”

Too, James said that while the new report contains many, many examples of the hardships faced by black trans people, "it is also important to acknowledge this community’s resilience. Despite these barriers, people keep going and keep trying to overcome the obstacles they encounter.”




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